Blackpool player cites Norfolk footballer as inspiration after coming out

Thetford Town manager Matt Morton. PIC: Submitted.

Matt Morton of Thetford Town has been named as an "inspiration" after Blackpool star Jake Daniels became the first professional footballer to come out publicly as gay for over 30 years - Credit: Archant

A Blackpool footballer has said he took inspiration from a Norfolk footballer after he came out publicly as gay. 

Jake Daniels made the statement via Blackpool FC's website on Monday (May 16), in which he cited Matt Morton of Thetford Town as inspiration for coming out.

The 17-year-old is the first professional football player to do so in over 30 years in what has been hailed as an "historic day".

The Blackpool forward said: "This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my team-mates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup. 

"But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.

"It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change."

Matt Morton was one of the highest-profile active footballers in the English game to come out when he did so in 2020.

He gained widespread plaudits for speaking candidly about his experiences and received thousands of positive responses. 

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In a tweet, Mr Morton said he was "proud" of Mr Daniels and said he was a "brave and inspirational young man."

He said: "So proud of you [Jake Daniels]. You are a brave, talented and inspirational young man with a huge future in the game.

"Can't wait to watch your feet do the talking in what is no doubt going to be an exciting career ahead."

Justin Fashanu.

Justin Fashanu was the last professional footballer to publicly come out was gay, when he did so in 1990

Former Norwich City footballer Justin Fashanu was the last professional footballer to publicly come out as gay, when he did so in 1990.

After giving an interview in a national newspaper in October 1990, in which he announced he was gay, the England youth international suffered from prejudice beyond his retirement in 1994, which eventually contributed to his death by suicide in 1998, aged 37.

In 2020, he became the second Norwich player to be inducted into the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame.

Mr Daniels said he had "hated lying my whole life" and said he hopes to become a "role model" by speaking publicly about his sexuality.

His statement continued: "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.

"There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in.

"You being you, and being happy, is what matters most."