Support for Steve Davies after England star says he's gay

Steve Davies' England team-mates fully support his decision to publicly reveal he is gay, and are looking forward to helping him make the most of his international career.

Davies, England's back-up wicketkeeper on this winter's Ashes-winning tour but left out in favour of Matt Prior for their ongoing World Cup campaign, announced his homosexuality to the world yesterday.

The 24-year-old has already spoken of his "massive relief" at coming out, having done so to his England team-mates and coaching staff last year. Ian Bell, who toured Australia with Davies, said: "We knew before the Ashes series. That didn't change anything for us. He is a very popular guy in our team."

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Bell believes the Surrey left-hander, who has so far made eight one-day international and five Twenty20 appearances for his country, has a significant England career ahead of him. "As a guy, he is a fantastic cricketer and that is what we see him as," he said. "He is a massively important person in our team.

Davies' sexual orientation is simply not an issue for his England colleagues. "I can't speak for other teams and other sports but, for us, it didn't affect anything for Steve or any of the other lads," added Bell. "It helped him by speaking to the guys and we just got on with it. We all supported him through the tour, which could have been very difficult. I think he has got a massive future in English cricket."

Davies said earlier: "I am and happy to say who I am in public. To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that's all I care about."

Davies' friends and family have known for five years that he is gay and he is thankful he told his team-mates too. "It was a fantastic thing to do," he said. "The difference is huge. I am so much happier. I told (coach] Andy (Flower] first. It was a tough thing for me to do, to tell him face to face, but I had to do it. He supported me 100 per cent, him and (captain] Andrew Strauss."

Davies is one of only a few professional sportsmen to come out. Former Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Hearts footballer Justin Fashanu, who died in 1998, and dual-code rugby international Gareth Thomas are the only two prominent British sportsman previously to do so during their careers.

Thomas called on the England and Wales Cricket Board to look after Davies. Thomas, who now plays rugby league for Engage Super League club Crusaders, has received plenty of high-profile support since making the decision to share his secret, but it has not all been plain sailing, having been on the receiving end of homophobic abuse from fans during a game last year.

He said: "The ECB should send out its own message that Steven must be respected, then there wouldn't be any abuse.You wouldn't tolerate racism so why would you tolerate any other kind of discrimination?

"There was one incident during my first away game in rugby league where a section of Castleford fans chanted abuse at me. But they were reported by other Castleford fans. The RFL banned them and fined the club."

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