Gay player-manager Matt Morton pays tribute to Blackpool's Jake Daniels for coming out

  • Matt Morton told ITV News Anglia he had spent time speaking with Jake Daniels

A gay footballer from Suffolk cited as an inspiration by the first professional player in the men's game to come out has paid tribute to the "incredible guts" the teenager has shown.

Non-league player-manager Matt Morton, from Bury St Edmunds, was a source of inspiration and advice for Blackpool player Jake Daniels, who has become the first active male professional footballer in 32 years to say that he is gay.

Daniels said the story of Thetford Town boss Morton was instrumental in his decision.

He spent the last few months talking to Morton, who himself came out two years ago.

Now he hopes others in the professional game will follow suit and have the confidence to be open about their sexuality.

Jake Daniels, who has come out as gay, said he felt "ready to come out and be myself". Credit: Sky Sports News/PA

Daniels said: "Maybe if there is Premier League footballers that are gay and are ready to come out, or they want to and they're just waiting, I want someone to contact me and ask how has it been, what's the reaction been like because I want to help other people.

"I just hate knowing that people are in the same situation that I'm in."

Morton said he had been struck by how incredibly brave the Blackpool forward had been to come out at the age of 17.

"[I've been] inspired definitely, I think pride is the biggest thing," he said.

"I'm just proud of him and the way he has faced this.

"The way he has carried himself and articulates his story, the way he's been so in control of the process all the way through."

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Morton said he was full of respect for Daniels' courage.

"If this was me in the closet like I was a few years ago I'd be looking at Jake - just a 17-year-old kid - and thinking he's got more balls than I have.

"He's shown incredible guts and bravery and he really is leading the way at just 17 years old."

Matt Morton spoke to ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward in 2020 Credit: ITV News Anglia

Morton said since he had come out he had not been treated any differently by fans, players or anyone else in football.

He did not know he was gay until he was in his 30s and became intrigued by someone liking his photos on Instagram.

From that point on, it became obvious to him it was more than just a phase, as he told ITV News Anglia in 2020.

He initially confided in his PA at work, before telling his close family and friends.

The most daunting prospect was telling his teammates at Norfolk non-league football team Thetford Town.

By making the decision to come out as an openly gay player, Morton said he was taking a leap of faith. At the time he was one of the highest-profile gay footballers in the country, despite competing in the ninth tier of English football.

It was that high-profile which encouraged Daniels to seek his advice.

"We are just people and we are not defined by our sexuality," said Morton.

"Our sexuality is a part of us but it's not who we are, it's just part of who we are."