Blackpool’s academy chief ‘taken aback’ by overwhelming response to Jake Daniels announcement

Blackpool FC’s academy chief admits he’s been “taken aback” by the overwhelmingly positive response to Jake Daniels’ decision to publicly come out as gay.

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Every word Blackpool FC footballer Jake Daniels said during inspirational Sky Sp...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those to praise the 17-year-old yesterday, alongside people within the game like Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand and Harry Kane.

It comes after Daniels became the first openly gay male professional footballer in the English game since Justin Fashanu in 1990, and only the second currently active gay male footballer in world football.

Speaking this morning to BBC Radio Lancashire, Blackpool’s academy director Ciaran Donnelly hopes Daniels is feeling “on top of the world”.

“I called Jake last night just to see how he was, see how he was finding it and make sure he was at home with his family,” he said.

“I think we’re all taken aback by just how big the response has been. It’s hard to prepare, because it’s unchartered waters and you don’t know what you’re going into.

“But to see the overwhelming positivity coming through and the profile of the people who are writing comments - I saw Harry Kane write one last night and I thought ‘wow, what a great thing’ - so the reaction has been unbelievable.

Blackpool's academy director Ciaran Donnelly

“I’m pleased it’s been like that for Jake and we’ll see how that goes over the coming days and weeks, but initially what an amazing thing for him to have done and he will be feeling like it’s a massive weight off his shoulders.

“The positivity coming his way will make him feel on top of the world, I’m sure.”

Daniels made the announcement in an inspirational interview with Sky Sports, where he revealed now was the right time to “tell his story”.

Many were impressed by how Daniels, still only aged 17, was able to articulate his feelings and emotions and detail how he got to this point.

“Jake is a great lad, he’s really mature,” Donnelly added.

“He’s mature beyond his years and I’m sure anyone that has seen his interview will have seen how well he speaks for a 17 year old.

“He’s just a genuinely nice lad and to get to this point, he’s shown great maturity and we’re just glad we’ve been able to play a part in that, because he’s trusted us.

“It’s not been easy for Jake to articulate that to us and to ultimately feel comfortable saying the words and being open and honest, but it’s happened over the course of the season.

“Jake has always been conscious it doesn’t affect his football, because his football is all he wants to do and ultimately that’s what he’s at Blackpool to do.

“But it’s been a really heartwarming process to see the lad gain that confidence and see what he’s done.”

Donnelly added: “The reaction from his teammates has been really impressive, but football has changed that much within the game.

“That might spark a debate but football is ready for this. Whether there’s a reaction outside the game which is different we’ll wait and see, but in the game we’re ready.

“His teammates applauded him when he had a short meeting with them to let them know.

“We tried not to make it a really formal process, we wanted Jake to be in control. He drip-fed it into the captain of the squad and one or two of his closer mates and the information worked its way out to the rest of the team.

“But it says a lot that it stayed in our environment. It could have become a big story out of our control, but we’ve got a perfect environment for Jake to do this.”

When asked if the world of football would have been so accepting when Donnelly, who played for Blackpool between 2005 and 2007, was at a similar age to Daniels, the club’s academy director said: “Unfortunately not.

“When I think back 20 years to what changing rooms were like and what young people were like, and staff too, it wasn’t an environment where somebody would be able to come forward.

“We don’t know that because no-one ever did, but the world has changed, young people have changed and people are much more open and better educated to know people are different.

“Jake is just one of us, he’s one of the boys and that won’t change, he knows that.”

Bispham-born Daniels, who has been with Blackpool’s academy since the age of seven, made his first-team debut last month.