Gainsborough Trinity fans have said football needs to move with the times and accept homosexuality.
The Blues faithful were reacting after one of their own players talked about life as gay footballer.
Liam Davis, 23, opened his heart about continuing to play in the game he loves since coming out in 2009. It is an issue which has captivated the media and saw Davis’s story go global, with his quotes appearing in national newspapers, internet blogs and columns across the world.
However, on a grey Saturday afternoon at the Northolme, the fans’ only concern was making sure they beat fellow Skrill North strugglers Workington.
Davis’s sexuality is not an issue to them. For some, the talk of it only underlines how football needs a reality check.
“If you live in the real world, it is not an issue,” said Eddie Clarke, 40, who was stood with a group of mates on the low terrace which runs the length of the ground.
“In the time I have grown up it has got to the point where being gay is not an issue.
“It is only a matter for those who go to a game and use football as an excuse to act like a child.
“I mean, who cares? I think it’s only people who have not managed to get out and see the bigger picture who would make it an issue.”
His view was echoed by Derek Hare: “He’s a young lad, he plays football, he’s gay. Why should that make him different from anybody else?
“I think it’s about your own experience. My wife and I have gay friends – it is not an issue.”
The fear of abuse from the terraces is often deemed the reason why a player has never previously talked openly about their sexuality.
However, it appears that people seem to also underestimate the level of support they would get from the same place.
Behind the goal, Bradley Wright and his friends string up their Trinity flags and a drum sits at the back wall waiting to be banged in support of their team.
Among the St George’s flags with GTFC painted on them is also a homemade anti-racism banner. And for Bradley there is no hesitation when asked what he would do if Davis was abused by another group of spectators.
“If any group of opposition fans tried to give him abuse we would stick up for him. He’s one of our players at the end of the day,” said Bradley, 18.
“It has been a big story it seems. For a non-league club it really has reached out to a bigger level.
“But all I think about Liam Davis is that he is a good footballer. He’s come out – good for him.”
Hannah Laws, 21, a Trinity fan since 2005, feels that anyone inclined to shout homophobic abuse is out of touch.
“I wasn’t bothered when the story came out,” she said. “It’s not an issue, it shouldn’t be an issue – it’s a game of football at the end of the day. He should not be abused because he is gay. I think if people do they are out of touch.
“As long as Liam is comfortable with himself it should not matter what others think.”
The match was Davis’s first appearance on the pitch since his sexuality became public knowledge last week.
Many attending the game were waiting to see what the reaction from the terraces would be like.
However, as the Blues eased to a 3-0 win over nine-man Workington, the only noise was the cheers from the crowd as Davis went close to scoring on two occasions.
Davis said he had not expected his own fans to turn on him – unless his performance was not up to scratch.
“They’ll back their own players as long as you are doing it week in, week out on the pitch. They will only turn on you if you’re not performing as a player,” said Davis after the game. “The manager though would have probably hauled you off before that point.
“They are not going to batter you from the stands because you are their player and you are there to do a job for their team. You would like to think that every set of supporters would be there for their players.
“I’d like to think that this has put out a positive message to people out there. And I’d like to think that if there is anyone who is worried about doing what I’ve done, or are thinking about it but are concerned, then hopefully this might put a few minds at rest and people will think differently about it now.
“Hopefully in the coming years, we will have two, three, maybe more openly gay footballers playing at a good standard.”
Davis’s story has already been well received by different campaigners.
Gay Football Supporters’ Network chairman Chris Basiurski said the Trinity winger’s story has helped them in their bid to raise the issue of homosexuality in football.
They have already campaigned for footballers to play with rainbow laces last September and say Davis’s story is another step forward.
“Davis has given us momentum,” said Basiurski. “We’ve spoken to gay footballers who have played a decent standard, but this is the first time it’s really captured the headlines.
“The more we talk about it the more we move closer to hopefully reaching the point where it is not an issue.
“We’ve been campaigning for 25 years, and we know there is a long way to go, but this has helped us.”
Davis himself admitted he did not expect the story to gain the exposure it did. And while the focus is on him at present, he hopes in the end his message is not forgotten – that it’s okay to be gay and play football.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind,” reflected Davis. “The phone has not stopped, especially on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It’s just been beep, beep, beep all day. Tiring is probably the best word for it. Very tiring.
“It mentally drained me through the first few days of the week. I’m very happy with it though.
“I did not expect it to make such impact, but I’m happy there is such a buzz about it and there is such good support being shown.
“I hope that goes a long way to what I’ve said about people feeling comfortable about being gay and playing football.”