Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels has come out, becoming Britain’s first active openly gay male professional footballer.

“For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer,” he told Sky Sports News. “I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.

“However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.

“Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental health.

“Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”

Daniels, who is 17-years-old, has scored a total of 30 goals for the under-19s this season alone and signed a professional contract with Blackpool in February.

He said he has known he was gay since the age of five or six, but used to believe his career and sexuality were incompatible.

“So all the way through my life I was like, ‘It’s fine, you’ll get a girlfriend when you’re older and you’ll change and it’ll be fine’,” he added.

Daniels shared that his friends, family and team have all been “amazing” since he came out to them.

“Everyone has been so supportive and so proud of me and it just shows what a bond we have as a team and everyone is like a family to each other.”

Prior to coming out, Daniels said that his mental health was suffering as a result of “overthinking and stress”, though he is now “confident and happy to be myself, finally”.

Justin Fashanu previously came out as gay in October 1990, becoming the only prominent player in professional English football to do so at the time.

Blackpool FC said it has “worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations” in order to support Daniels in the process of sharing his identity with the world.

Liz Ward, Director of Programmes at Stonewall, said: “To come out publicly as the UK’s first openly gay professional footballer in nearly 30 years takes incredible courage, and we’re heartened by the solidarity and support he has received from Blackpool FC and his teammates.”