TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Arsenal Spursy it up

Great. Look what you’ve done, you’ve got Granit Xhaka talking about “balls”!
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It was a carnival atmosphere at St James’ Park on Monday night. There were flags, plenty of them in fact, a tifo based on Newcastle’s celebrations post-Crystal Palace win, and even Hawaiian shirts being worn with Joelinton’s face on.
Beach attire for some, but Arsenal’s hopes that Newcastle’s players were mentally on the sands of Dubai or elsewhere with safety secured were swiftly dashed as it soon became clear they had a match on their hands.
In fact, Newcastle were more than a match, with these future competitors for the European places putting paid to Arsenal’s chances of Champions League football next season. It’s not over, but it basically is
And so of course "Spursy" was trending afterwards. Tottenham have long been derided for Spursing it up at the most Spursiest of moments, so their fans took delight in ridiculing their greatest rivals for throwing away what had been an advantageous position, while even Arsenal fans got in on the self-implosion act.
It could have been over last Thursday. Top four was within Arsenal’s grasp, but after losing to Spurs and then Newcastle last night – making it six defeats in 11 Premier League games after a favourable top-four lead on March 15 – the Gunners must not only beat Everton on Sunday, but also hope Spurs fail to win at relegated Norwich.
A Spurs draw would leave Arsenal requiring a 15-0 win, for what it’s worth, but really it’s Tottenham’s to lose, and make no mistake, their fans – though elated – can think of nothing worse than needing a point at the Premier League’s bottom club.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are staring at another season of Thursdays and Sundays, and the prospect of Newcastle posing as challengers for Europe next season has left many feeling Mikel Arteta’s youthful side have blown their best chance for years.

Jake Daniels – British football’s beacon

It was, sadly, no mistake that for three decades not a single professional male footballer in the UK came out as gay. Such was the toxic machismo, in the dressing rooms and in the stands, that players found it all too difficult an environment to comfortably come out in.
Football still, undeniably, has this issue despite the efforts to boost inclusivity, and while there has been a hope for some time that it will one day no longer be necessary for a footballer to reveal their sexuality, the sport still needed that watershed moment for that hope to become a reality.
Step forward Jake Daniels, Blackpool’s 17-year-old forward who yesterday produced one of the most momentous statements seen in British football this century.

Blackpool's Daniels becomes first UK male footballer to come out as gay since 1990

Daniels is the first active EFL player to come out as gay. Just let that sink in. The top four tiers boast thousands of players, but Daniels is the first male footballer in the UK since Justin Fashanu – who came out in 1990 – to be openly gay.
“It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality,” Daniels said, and he is, of course, right.
For a 17-year-old to be the one determined to “drive change” speaks volumes of his character, a character few of us knew but will now forever remember, and while this is only the start for Daniels and his footballing journey, it is our turn as fans, as well as the responsibility of every club and player who plays with or against him, to provide the supportive environment many of us believe this sport is capable of showcasing.
That will take some work, and may require educating a minority, but following such an act of courage, the least we can all do is help.

IN OTHER NEWS

It’s Mbappe day…

…maybe, probably, or perhaps not, although today is supposed to be a significant step for Kylian Mbappe’s move to Real Madrid according to 24/7 football tweeter Fabrizio Romano.
“Si,” reads Marca’s Mbappe-filled front page, too, which translates as “yes”, apparently, so let’s see what the day brings us.
After months of he "definitely will", we definitely won’t get our hopes up.

RETRO CORNER

In the latest instalment of “How Was That ____ Years Ago” – here’s the goal that broke Arsenal hearts 16 years ago on this day… Sixteen years.

HAT-TIP

There is no better story to recommend that Jake Daniels’ – if you haven’t read it already, he spoke with Sky Sports on Monday:
I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant. If they think this kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too.

COMING UP

“Oh when the Saints…” the blue half of Manchester will be chanting tonight. Southampton host Liverpool at St Mary’s, so follow our blog later with the Reds needing at least a point but really three to keep the Premier League title race alive. Also, the Nottingham Forest-Sheffield United Championship play-off semi-final second leg!
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