Norfolk football boss 'so proud' after inspiring player to come out

Thetford Town manager Matt Morton. PIC: Submitted.

Matt Morton of Thetford Town has been named as among those who inspired Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels to come out. - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk football manager has spoken of his pride after been named as an inspiration by the UK's only active male professional footballer to come out as gay.

Jake Daniels this week became the country's first male professional footballer to publicly come out as gay since former Norwich City player Justin Fashanu, over 30 years ago.

The 17-year-old announced the news on Blackpool FC's website on Monday in which he cited Thetford Town player-manager Matt Morton as being among those who inspired him.

The young forward said while this season has been a success for him on the pitch, making his first-team debut in a Championship game earlier this month, that he had been "hiding the real me" off it.

He said: "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 [Australian player] Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change."

His announcement has since attracted widespread support from people across the world, including Harry Kane, prime minister Boris Johnson, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Mr Morton, who came out as gay in 2019, was one of the highest-profile active footballers in the English game to come out when he did - with Thetford playing at step nine of the English football pyramid.

In a tweet, he referred to Mr Daniels as his little brother and said he was "so proud" of him.

He told BBC Radio Norfolk that he had spoken to the Blackpool player before he announced the news on Monday and that they had been talking "almost daily" since the beginning of the year.

Most Read

Mr Morton said: "He was determined right from the start that he wanted to come out at some point.

"It's a weight off his shoulders and hopefully we can now see his football career flourish."

Mr Daniels' announcement has also been welcomed by Norwich City supporters group Proud Canaries.

Founder of the LGBT group, Di Cunningham, said: "It's a huge relief that male football has dragged itself into the 21st century with the help of this young man.

 Di Cunningham, founder of Proud Canaries

Di Cunningham, founder of Proud Canaries. - Credit: Di Cunningham

"It's relief on Jake's part that he can get on with the rest of his life and play his best football, and it's relief from me because we have always celebrated Justin [Fashanu] and regretted the fact that he was the only out elite male footballer in this country.

"It's a surprise as to why it's taken so long.

"Justin came out in 1990. It's taken 32 years for someone else in the male game to feel comfortable enough to be open about who they love.

"Fans and everyone really is grateful now it reflects their normality, rather than it be this strange place that seems to be the environment it was in the 50s."

Justin Fashanu is another iconic Norwich City striker to wear the number nine shirt. Picture: Archan

Justin Fashanu was the last professional footballer to publicly come out as gay in 1990 - Credit: Archant

The founder said the environment within male football such as with management and coaching staff had to be looked at.

She said: "For Jake, he's needed to find that peer support and role model in Norfolk, from a grassroots team manager in Matt Morton.

"So that's brilliant and I'm so proud of Matt and happy to know him, but goodness, why is a guy from Blackpool having to seek support and role modelling from somebody in Norfolk from the grassroots game?

"That's something that is wrong and the FA need to address that."

Mr Fashanu was the first professional footballer to come out as gay and the England youth international suffered from prejudice beyond his retirement in 1994. He took his own life in 1998, aged 37.

His niece Amal Fashanu told BBC Radio Norfolk that Mr Daniels' coming out was an "important day" and is "liberating".

If you need help and support, call NHS 111 and select option 2 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.