Jake Daniels says one of his ambitions is to make his home debut for Blackpool - he could achieve that next season. | image via Utilita Football on YouTube

With so few out gay or bi male professional soccer players anywhere in the world, we want to hold on to those who are already representing.

Good news this week then, as Blackpool FC have announced that striker Jake Daniels has had his contract extended for another 12 months.

His retention by the Seasiders, who play in England’s third tier, means that there are still five active out pro players in the men’s game — Jakub Jankto (Cagliari), Collin Martin (North Carolina FC), Josh Cavallo (Adelade United), Andy Brennan (South Melbourne FC) and Daniels.

The out player staying at Bloomfield Road was by no means guaranteed. In an Instagram post, his agency, Astra Partners, said his goalscoring form while out on loan at Bradford Park Avenue, down in the seventh tier, swung it for the 19-year-old.

“Jake joined BPA in February of this year and had a very impressive loan spell… It’s this form that has prompted the club to extend Jake’s current deal,” the caption read.

Although Avenue ended up getting relegated, Daniels was a bright spark after arriving for their final 13 games of the campaign.

He also won the Northern Premier League’s goal-of-the-month competition for February for a superb effort against Ashton United.

It’s nearly two years since Daniels, then just 17, came out publicly as gay. He was supported in doing so by his club, who were at the time in England’s second-tier Championship, and he received an overwhelmingly welcoming reception from across the game.

But this is a road rarely traveled. For the last couple of seasons, Daniels has faced some daunting challenges on top of the standard struggles that any young player would encounter.

Having made one senior appearance for Blackpool as a substitute away from home shortly before sharing his personal news, he hasn’t been part of a senior matchday squad since, instead spending his time on the development squad.

Furthermore, the Seasiders went through two managerial changes before being relegated to the third tier a year ago. Throw in the pressure of being a teenager who suddenly has over 100,000 social media followers and is getting asked about issues such as LGBTQ rights in Saudi Arabia, and it’s a lot to handle.

In an interview for Utilita Football back in February, Daniels was asked about the amount of hate he sees online.

“Sometimes, I wish I could just turn my phone off and leave it because it can be a toxic place,” he said.

“One thing that was installed to my Instagram when I came out was an app that got rid of hate messages from your feed or on your post.

“Two or three seconds after it had been posted, it would just get deleted straight away which was a massive thing, because I could see 100 positive things and that one negative would always stick in my mind.

“People say don’t read it but it’s so hard not to. It’s good to have that, just to remove it so I don’t see it. I think [we need] more things like that just so people aren’t seeing it and then struggling even more.”

Most gay and bi players would either not know about this software or wouldn’t be minded to ask for it, probably because they are still closeted and would fear that any request would be met with unwanted questions.

They would also worry that it could count against them. Having to constantly prove yourself in a sport that is as ferociously competitive as it is lucrative puts immense pressure on teenage pros to conform.

So Daniels deserves credit for having made it this far in his career. He was one of five Blackpool youngsters whose contract options were exercised this week, with several others released.

As for his personal targets, he also said in February: “Short term, just to be in and around the first team as much as possible. I’d love to make my home debut — that would be a dream as well.

“Long term, this is my club and I’d love to be here for as long as I can.” 

He has ambitions off the pitch too. “I want to try and get more players to come out and feel comfortable.

“I want to grow as a person and I want to help people as well, to make everything more inclusive and just let people know what LGBTQ is and that it’s going places.”

Here’s hoping we get to see Daniels run out in front of the Blackpool fans in the 2024/25 campaign.