Gareth Southgate has hailed the “bravery” of Jake Daniels after the Blackpool striker became the first active male professional footballer in the UK to come out publicly as gay.
Daniels revealed the news in an exclusive interview with sky sports last week, saying, “I feel like I’m ready to tell people my story.”
The 17-year-old has received support from the footballing world, with Jurgen Klopp saying he is “proud” of him, and Price William, the chairman of the Football Association, praising his “courage”.
After announcing his squad for next month’s Nations League fixtures, England boss Southgate was asked if more players would feel comfortable stepping out after Daniels did, and said: “That must be the hope.
“Jake has incredible support from within the game and everyone admires the bravery of someone so young to take this step.
“It’s sad that we talk this way. Frankly, in any other area of life, someone’s sexuality wouldn’t be questioned or even discussed. That’s the bridge we all know that had to be crossed and he opened up this possibility for everyone now.
“It’s great that he did this. I hope others feel the confidence and the support that they think they can do. It remains to be proven if there is more tolerance from the terraces, from all over the world. the game.
“I think the support is there. I know for sure the support is there in the locker room, and the people in the game that I talk to, that’s it. Hopefully that’s the start and, in fact, in a few years’ times, it’s not even a discussion and there’s less around an individual.
“I hope there are many more now who feel free to follow because there will be other gay players who at the moment don’t feel confident enough to follow the steps that Jake took.”
Jack Grealish, who is part of Southgate’s last England team, said Sky News last week that Daniels had helped football take a “huge step forward”.
“I think it shows a lot of courage and nobody can disagree with that,” the Manchester City winger said. “I think it’s absolutely brilliant and a huge step forward.”
Daniels ‘overwhelmed’ with love and support
Speaking last week, Daniels said he was “overwhelmed” with the love and support he had received in the days following his announcement.
Taking to Instagram, Daniels said: “I’ve taken some time over the past few days to digest everything that’s happened and gather my thoughts. I’ve been overwhelmed with all the messages of love and support that I received. It was incredibly moving.
“Just want to say a big thank you to @blackpoolfc for everything over the last few months – you’ve been amazing.
“To my family and friends for giving me the strength to keep moving forward in my life. I owe you so much.
“To @skysports_tim for giving me the confidence to be me – your understanding and sensitivity throughout our time together has been immense.
“For [agent] @billybingham03 and @astrapartnersfootball for their guidance throughout – you’ve been amazing to me and my family.
“And a big thank you to [Leeds businessman] @terrygeorge for his generosity and for taking care of me these past few days.
“I wake up this morning proud of what I have done, but even prouder to be part of such a welcoming and supportive community.
“Together we can end the stigma and move football forward.”