Gareth Southgate has hailed Jake Daniels’ « bravery » after the Blackpool striker became the UK’s first active male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay.
Daniels revealed the news in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports last week, saying: « I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. »
The 17-year-old has received support from across the football world, with Jurgen Klopp saying he was « proud » of him, and Price William, the president of the Football Association, praising his « courage ».
After announcing his squad for next month’s Nations League matches, England boss Southgate was asked if more players will feel comfortable coming out after Daniels did so, and said: « That has to be the hope.
« Jake has incredible support from within the game and everybody is admiring the bravery of someone so young taking that step.
« It’s sad we’re talking that way. Frankly, across any other walk of life, the sexuality of someone wouldn’t be questioned or even a discussion. That’s the bridge we all know has needed to be crossed and he has opened that possibility for everybody else now.
« It’s brilliant he’s done that. I hope others feel the confidence and support that they feel they can do it. It’s to be proved whether there is more tolerance from the terraces, from everywhere within the game.
« I think the support is there. I know for certain the support is there in the dressing rooms, and the people in the game I talk to that it is. Let’s hope it’s the start and, in actual fact, in a couple of years’ time, it’s not even a discussion and there is less surrounding one individual.
« Hopefully there are many others now that feel free to follow, because there will be other gay players who at the moment don’t feel confident enough to take the steps that Jake has taken. »
Jack Grealish, who is in Southgate’s latest England squad, told Sky News last week that Daniels had helped football to take a « massive step forward.
« I think it shows a lot of courage and no one can disagree with that, » said the Manchester City winger. « I think it’s absolutely brilliant and it’s a massive step forward. »
Daniels ‘overwhelmed’ by love and support
Speaking last week, Daniels said he was « overwhelmed » by the love and support he had received in the days since his announcement.
Taking to Instagram, Daniels said: « I’ve taken some time away these past few days to digest everything that’s happened and collate my thoughts. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages of love and support I’ve received. It’s been incredibly touching.
« I just want to say a massive thank you to @blackpoolfc for everything over the past few months – you have been incredible.
« To my family and friends for giving me the strength to continue to move 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 all of our time together was immense.
« To [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 looking after me for the last few days.
« I wake up this morning proud of what I’ve done, but even more proud to be part of such a welcoming and supportive community.
« Together we can end the stigma and move football forward. »