On Monday, Blackpool’s Jake Daniels became the UK’s first male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
Daniels, 17, shared his story with Sky Sports and Gary Neville believed his decision will go down in history as an important day for English football…
“I was incredibly proud just to see a 17-year-old be able to actually do an interview of that level of quality,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I would not have been able to do that in my mid-twenties or late-twenties. What he has just done took incredible courage. We have been in dressing rooms for many, many years and that would seem like the unthinkable to announce that you are gay. I can’t imagine how difficult that has been.
I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.
I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it’s been a long time that I have been living with the lie.
At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.
But as you get older you realise you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.
I did have girlfriends in the past, to try and make all my mates think I was straight, but it was just a massive cover-up. In school people even used to ask me: “Are you sure you aren’t gay?”. And I would reply, “no, I’m not”.
I wasn’t ready and it was a struggle but I just don’t want to lie any more.
For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.
However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.
Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental heath. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.
I first told my mum and my sister, who I live with. “Yeah, we already knew,” was how they reacted.
Then we told my whole family and at this point I was quite scared because I didn’t know how the older generation might react.
I needn’t have worried. I’ve had so many messages saying, “we are proud and we are supportive.” It’s been amazing. I couldn’t have wished for it to go better.
The day after I told my mum and sister, we played Accrington [in an under-18s fixture] and I scored four goals, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders and what a massive relief it was.
And Blackpool have been absolutely amazing too. I am with them every day and I felt safe. My team-mates have all been so supportive about it and everyone has had my back. They’ve been asking tons of questions, they have all been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It’s the best thing I could have asked for.”