“Football has changed so much over the years. Football is ready for that in the game.”
Jake Daniels’ announcement Monday that he’s gay was a long time coming. Not just at Blackpool – the 17-year-old forward’s club where they’d been working towards this day all season – but also in British football, where it’s been more than 30 years since an active male professional footballer outed.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Daniels said he felt ‘now is the right time’ – and those words are echoed by Blackpool academy director Ciaran Donnelly.
“Whether there’s a different reaction off the game we’ll see, but on the game we’re ready,” he said.
He said the reaction from Daniels’ team-mates at the Championship Club was “really impressive”, providing the ideal environment for the player to be himself.
“We tried not to make it a really formal process, we wanted Jake to be in control. He tipped it off to the captain, one or two of his closer friends within the squad, and the information carried through to the rest of the team,” Donnelly said BBC Radio Lancashire.
“I think it’s a sign that it stayed in our environment, it could have turned into a big story that’s beyond our control.
“But the respect and love for Jake within the group has resulted in a really nice group of people, and it’s been the perfect environment for Jake to do that.”
Reaction to Daniels’ announcement was extremely positive, with England captain Harry Kane, Gary Lineker and Prime Minister Boris Johnson all sending messages of support.
“I called Jake last night just to see how he’s doing and I think we’re all surprised at the response,” Donnelly said Tuesday.
“It’s hard to prepare because it’s uncharted waters and you don’t know what you’re getting into, but to see the overwhelming positivity that’s coming through, the profile of people commenting – I saw Harry Kane do it yesterday wrote one in the evening and thought ‘Wow, what a great thing’ – the reaction was incredible.
“I’m so glad it’s going to be for Jake, we’ll see how that goes in the coming days and weeks but initially what an amazing thing for him and he’s going to feel like it’s a massive weight loss.” is his shoulders.
“The positivity that’s coming his way will make him feel like he’s on top of the world, I’m sure.”
“Maturity Beyond His Years”
Daniels made his first-team debut in early May but has been at Blackpool since he was seven.
Donnelly said his journey at the club’s academy has had its typical “up and downs” but Daniels has impressed with his maturity – as he has done around the world over the past 24 hours.
“He had a period away from the academy when he decided he didn’t want to play football for a short time and then came back,” Donnelly said.
“Certainly he has really stepped on the gas in the last 18 months and done really well with his football.
“As a person he has a nice family around him, nice people, his mother and father are lovely.
“Jake’s a great boy, he’s really mature, mature beyond his years. I’m sure people who have seen his interview will see how well he speaks for a 17 year old and he’s just a really nice boy.
“To get to this point he’s shown immense maturity and we’re really glad we could be a part of that and that he trusted us with that.
“It wasn’t easy for Jake to articulate that with us and then eventually feel comfortable enough to actually say the words and be honest and open.
“It was throughout this season and Jake was always aware that it never affects his football, football is what he wants to do and that is ultimately what he is in Blackpool for.
“In the background the work that Will Cowell has done as our welfare officer and the connection that he had with Jake and then bringing everyone into the herd, talking to his mum and dad and Jake, it was just a real Heart – warming process, seeing a boy gain that confidence and have that belief to go and do what he has done.
“He’s just one of us, just one of the boys and that’s not going to change.”