Jake Daniels and Blackpool have just changed the game for British football

What were you doing when you were 17? I can’t even remember what I was doing with my life at that age, so insignificant it was.

Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 1:22 pm

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

But Jake Daniels, still so tender in years, has already managed to have a profound impact on so many people around the world, not just in this country. You only have to see the reaction to his brave, courageous announcement to see that.

This news has gone far beyond Blackpool, far beyond the UK and far beyond even the boundaries of football. It’s been plastered all over the front pages and I’ve even had a Danish radio station get in touch asking to discuss it.

News of a teenage boy coming out as gay really shouldn’t be news, especially in 2022. But it undoubtedly is, especially for a professional footballer.

For Daniels to become the only openly gay male professional in Britain, and only the second in the world, should be a watershed moment for the sport.

Hopefully others, who until now have been too afraid to truly be themselves, will be comforted by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Daniels’ coming out.

If his announcement makes a difference to just one person, and I suspect it will impact a great deal more than that, then it will have undoubtedly been worth it.

Daniels publicly came out as a gay during an interview with Sky Sports

That misses the point a little though, because - while Daniels has admitted himself he wants to inspire others to follow in his footsteps - this is essentially about him and his truth. He no longer wants to live a lie and why should he?

For those that ask: who cares? Why does it matter? It matters so much. The fact that no other professional male footballer on the planet, aside from Daniels and Australian Josh Cavallo, have felt comfortable enough to come out speaks volumes about football and the culture and environment that has been fostered over many years.

It poses plenty of uncomfortable questions about our sport but those questions need to be asked, as has been required for decades.

Instead of asking why this is such a big deal, why not ask yourself why it’s taken this long for a footballer to come out. Why not reflect on what happened to Justin Fashanu, when he made a similar announcement in 1990.

Even yesterday, on a day where so much changed in a positive manner for LGBT people with a love and affection for football, there were still negative headlines regarding PSG footballer Idrissa Gueye, who reportedly refused to play during his side’s game against Montpellier at the weekend because he didn’t want to wear a rainbow flag on his kit.

Stories like this are just the tip of the iceberg, there’s still an incredibly long way to go. But we can be incredibly proud it’s a Blackpool player - and an incredibly talented one too, with a bright future ahead of himself - who has been the first one to break the taboo.

It’s abundantly clear the club have dealt with this in a flawless manner from start to finish, allowing Jake to control his narrative and make the announcement whenever he’s ready.

A small circle of people knew, but the news never got out - despite the best attempt of the usual suspects over the weekend.

Blackpool as a club now are a far cry from the one its own supporters despised as recently as four years ago. Fans were ashamed and embarrassed to be in any way connected with the club under the abhorrent Oyston regime.

But now, under the custodianship of Simon Sadler and helped by the likes of Ben Mansford, Neil Critchley, Ciaran Donnelly and others behind the scenes, a healthy environment has been fostered which gave Daniels the freedom and comfort to make an announcement of such a scale.

During his inspirational interview with Sky Sports - which, if you’ve not already, you should watch as soon as possible - Daniels spoke glowingly about how his teammates reacted and accepted his news.

In many ways, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. The younger generation are a lot more open and honest than previous ones and long gone are the days of toxic dressing rooms where a stereotypical view of “masculinity” was seen as the only way to behave.

Jake also clearly has a fantastic support network of family, friends and teammates, including his youth-team colleague and Under-19s captain Michael Fitzgerald, who told him how proud he was and asked plenty of questions.

It’s been some 12 months for the Blackpool forward, who made his first-team debut earlier this month during the final game of the season at Peterborough.

Prior to that, the winger-turned-striker bagged 30 goals for the youth-team, scored at Stamford Bridge in the FA Youth Cup, signed a professional contract the following day and ended the campaign as the club’s young player of the year.

Top it off with this latest news, Daniels has achieved more in the space of one year than many of us will in our lifetimes. But there’s plenty more to come.

Born in Bispham, educated at Moor Park Primary and Montgomery Academy and now starring for the Seasiders, we should all be very proud of Jake.

I suspect he’s still coming to terms with everything that happened last night, but he might never truly grasp the enormity of what he’s done for countless number of people around the world, not just at home.

In his statement on the club’s website, Daniels namechecked Cavallo, non-league manager Matt Morton and Olympic diver Tom Daley as people that have inspired him on his journey.

In the coming weeks, months and years ahead, it will be Jake’s name that will be used in the same way.