Football Icon 2 winner Carl Magnay, whose victory was announced on Friday night, had good reason to feel optimistic he would finish the competition on top, but also had understandable reasons to be cautious.

 

Now the proud owner of a professional contract with Chelsea Football Club following the nation's biggest ever football talent search, which was televised by Sky One, Magnay had appeared one of the favourites from early on.

 

His initial performances caught the eye and his progress became clear when the 17 year-old centre-back was allowed to train with some of Jose Mourinho's first team squad, a privilege he enjoyed unaccompanied by any of the other finalists.

 

Football Icon judges Neil Bath, Eddie Newton and Jamie Redknapp could also be seen discussing Magnay's burning desire to win, a quality that was bound to impress.

 

It was a desire born of previous rejection, the same rejection that led the player not to count his chickens.

 

Just before reaching school leaving age, Magnay had been told by Leeds United that he would not be taken on full-time by them despite years playing in their schoolboy teams.

 

'Although I was getting all this great feedback from the Football Icon judges and I had the opportunity to train with the first team, there was always a doubt in my mind,' explains Magnay, soon after learning of his triumph.

 

'I have been in bad situations before because at the time I was released by Leeds, I thought I was doing really well and again the coaches were saying you are progressing well and that you should have a good future at the club.

 

'But then a few months later, I was told I was being released.

 

'That experience told me that it can go wrong. It doesn't matter how good you think you are doing, it is down to somebody else's opinion at the end of the day.

 

'I said all along that even if I got as far as a run-out for the first team, there was so much at stake that I would have a doubt in my mind and be aware of the possibility that they could say no.'

 

When judgement day came, the pressure was on with 30 of Magnay's relatives down from his native Newcastle to witness the final game and hear the result.

 

You can only imagine the joy when they found out the chance to make it at a professional club was open to him again.

 

'The fact that it was televised, it has been a good chance for me to show the country that I have always been capable of playing at that level.

 

'When Leeds told me that I wasn't good enough, that drove me on because I knew I was. It was the perfect opportunity to prove a point to Leeds and prove that I can play at the top.'

 

He admits to finding extra motivation in going head-to-head with striker Stuart Gates at the very end, the two having had better friends in the Football Icon mansion.

 

If that relationship wasn't a high point, Magnay has no difficulty naming his best moment from the months he was in the contest.

 

'Although we have been to Los Angeles, the main thing that sticks out in my mind is when I first met John Terry, because I am a centre-half and I have always looked up to him.

 

'To meet him, that was it for me, that topped everything off, and he turned out to be a cracking bloke.

 

'I have bumped into him a few times at the training ground and he has been brilliant with me.'

 

His most uncomfortable moment was when whisked away in a helicopter to see Terry and England play at Old Trafford, not much fun for someone with a big fear of flying.

 

'I will never be doing that again,' he laughs.

 

Another memorable moment was the unanticipated reunion with two Chelsea youngsters, Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, who themselves had joined from Leeds.

 

'When I first started Football Icon, I got a tap on the shoulder and it was Woodsy. And Taiwo was there too and it made me think what a small world it is.

 

'It has just been like old times because we had played in the same team at Leeds and we were all best friends.

 

'To have them two at the club already was excellent for me because it has helped me settle in really well. When I won, I had a few text messages from them saying it is good to have you back in the fold again.'

 

Now Magnay is working on maintaining his fitness to be ready to begin life as a Chelsea professional.

 

The initial goal is to earn appearances in the Chelsea youth team and an extension to his contract in the summer, just as happened with the winner of the original Football Icon, Sam Hurrell.

 

The words of the experts that chose this year's winner are ringing in his ears as much as the many congratulations.

 

'As a centre-half, I've been told to learn to move my feet quicker. At Chelsea you have young wingers who are all internationals and they are all quick and very nimble on their feet. It is a good test to bring out that side of my game.

 

'Moving my feet quicker is what I have been, and will be working on. The signs are looking good.

 

'I have had plenty of experience training with the reserves. That is encouraging. But I must keep progressing and improving.'