Yesterday was one of those things happened that absolutely makes your day. I got in from work, put on Sky Sports and was greeted by an exclusive interview, with a young player from Blackpool, a mid table Championship team who I have no interest in at all, don't particularly like or dislike them and TBH I wasn't even sure what league they were in, so little interest did I have in them until yesterday. I had quite liked their swashbuclking style in their one season in the Premier League under Ian Holloway, but other than that, they have hardly registered on my football radar. My first thought as I saw the subtitle saying "Jake Daniles recently signed professionally for Blackpool" was "why is a yout team player signing a top news story". Then I read the rest and realised that Jake had come out as a gay man.
As I watched the interview, I was so impressed with him. He spoke eloquently and was a truly engaging player. He is also probably the bravest player in professional football right now. It seems clear to me that Blackpool FC have supported him and must have given some media training for the melee that has occurred. They will be my favourite club in the league next season, assuming Manchester City FC avoid relegation on Sunday!
Why? I'm not Gay, Jake's statement will make no difference to me personally. The reason is because I have always admired the brave and bold, those prepared to sail against the wind. Those who stand up to be themselves. Without the support of his family, club and friends, which are not always guaranteed, it would have been almost impossible.
Jake is now the only out gay man at 92 clubs in professional league football. If every club has 25 players, that's around 2,229 other players. There are only really two possibilities. The world of football is so homophobic that no one who is gay wants to get involved or that there are a lot of players living a lie. Jake has shown all of those that there is nothing to fear. Of course, the proof of the pudding is inwhat happens on the terraces and on the field of play. Footballers at all levels are unrelentingly horrible to opponents on the field of play. If you can get inside someone's head then you have put them out of the game. I do hope that Jake is strong enough to get through this and referees are aware of this. As for the crowds. I've no idea how they will react to him. I fully expect most fans to lay off him, but there are clubs where I suspect they won't. Brighton FC get homophobic chants even though their only association (officially) with gay culture is to be based in a city with a strong gay culture.
I do hope that clubs take firm action. We've seen how England have dealt with racism from foreign hostile crowds. We need the same for Jake. I suspect that there will be a lot of young men in locker rooms watching carefully. If Jake is allowed to get onw ith doing what he does best, play football, I suspect we'll start to see a trickle of other players over the coming weeks.
It is 2022. In truth, it is insane that it has taken so long. The sad truth is that the only other pro footballer to come out, Justin Fashanu, was treated appallingly. He ended up taking his own life as his career floundered. He passed away in 1998, twenty four years ago. I hope and pray that in 24 years, all we remember Jake for is a great career and we see his announcement yesterday as the moment when football and the Uk grew up in regards to how we regard people's sexuality.
To me this is important. I would be nothing without my partner Clare. The thought that anyone cannot make such a statement in public about the person they love is simply horrific. That is why Jake must be applauded and what he did is a brave and wonderful thing.