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Jake Daniels: Blackpool footballer UK’s first male professional to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu

The Blackpool youngster made the historic announcement on Monday afternoon.

Blackpool striker Jake Daniels has become the first current male professional to come out as gay since former Norwich City forward Justin Fashanu 32 years ago.

In an emotional statement released by the Championship club and a subsequent television interview with Sky Sports News, the 17-year-old made the announcement public in what is seen as a hugely significant moment for the English game.

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Speaking to the broadcaster, Daniels said: “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.

Daniels signed his first professional contract in February

“I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.”

In the statement placed on the Blackpool website, the young striker revealed he had received support from a number of sources ahead of the historic annoucement and stated his intent to become ‘a role model’.

He said: “In reaching this point, I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly pro-active in putting my interests and welfare first.

“I have also confided in my team-mates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people.

“I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.”

But what do we know of the man that has created history with his bravery and openness?

Early promise and FA Youth Cup goals against Premier League opposition

Daniels joined Blackpool’s youth ranks at the age of seven and has forged a reputation as a fearsome striker as he made his way through their academy system.

A first professional contract was agreed in February keeping him at Bloomfield Road until the summer of 2024 and gave him a considerable reward for scoring in FA Youth Cup ties against Premier League giants Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Daniels becomes the first publicly gay male footballer in the British game since Justin Fashanu

Daniels put his side ahead inside the opening five minutes of the quarter-final tie against the Blues but the Premier League youngsters roared back to claim a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

In total, Daniels scored over 20 goals for Blackpool’s under-18s side before his development earned him the first loan move of his young career just weeks later.

Gaining experience in non-league football

Northern Premier League Premier Division club Bamber Bridge became Daniels’ temporary home after they agreed to take the youngster on loan for the remainder of the season.

At the time, he told the non-league club’s website: “Hopefully I can score some goals but I want this to be a real taster of what men’s football is like, I want it to toughen me up and I want to gain some confidence in my ability as well.

“Going out on loan at the age I’m at now is going to be one of the best things for me to get a feel of what it’s going to be like as I start getting older.”

Daniels would be sent off in his first appearance as his temporary employers battled to a 1-0 win at Basford United, but his return from suspension brought a far happier memory as he fired a first senior goal in a 4-0 win at Hyde United last month.

That proved to be the only goal of his six appearances for the club and he returned to Blackpool looking to continue his impressive progression through their ranks.

A senior debut

Daniels rounded off an eventful season on the pitch by making his senior debut as a substitute in Blackpool’s season-ending 5-0 defeat at Championship rivals Peterborough United.

Daniels has become the first openly gay footballer in the English game since Justin Fashanu

The Tangerines were already three goals down by the time Daniels replaced Jerry Yates inside the final ten minutes of a poor performance from his side at London Road.

However, the youngster has already been tipped for a bright future by his youth team manager, former Blackpool striker John Murphy.

He told The Blackpool Gazette: “I’ve just told him everything he did was outstanding. He was the one big positive from the first-half, in that he was making things happen, he was working hard, he was pressing with intensity, he’s challenging defenders, he’s getting hold of it, he’s showing lovely touches.

“He makes a rubbish ball into a good ball by being clever, by getting a good first touch, by using his body. He plays beyond his years.

“It’s important for Jake to stay grounded but his performances of late…he had a spell where he did well, got his contract and then had a little bit of a lull, but towards the end of the season he’s been one of the standout players.”

Support since historic announcement

Daniels’ announcement that he was coming out as gay arrived just over a week after his maiden appearance in Blackpool’s first-team.

Within minutes of the news breaking via the club’s website and Sky Sports News, the young forward received messages of support from aroud the world of football and beyond.

Former West Ham United and Aston Villa midfielder, Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay following his retirement, said on Twitter: "Well done @Jake_Daniels11 Have a wonderful career! Great to see the support of @BlackpoolFC and @stonewalluk to make this possible!"

Former England star Gary Neville called it “a moment of great importance” and the Professional Footballers Association added: "We are extremely proud of Jake and have been working with him and his club. He has the complete support of everyone at the PFA."

Comedian Matt Lucas tweeted: “It's a landmark day in British LGBT history. Brilliant, brave @Jake_Daniels11 - a professional Championship footballer with @BlackpoolFC - has come out. Huge respect to you, Jake, and to your club and teammates for supporting you.”