FA Cup: How player-manager Matt Morton got out of his Thetford Town players

Thetford Town player-manager Matt Morton (right) and partner Lorenzo have been together for 18 months

Matt Morton’s head raced with thoughts as he hit the send button on Thetford Town’s WhatsApp group chat.

How would his teammates react? Was he about to be put aside? Will a new club have to be found? Did he do the right thing?

Eighteen months after realizing he was gay at the age of 31, Morton took to social media to come out to his fellow Ninth Division club Norfolk.

Within minutes of pressing send, her cell phone sent replies.

“I am extremely proud of you for following your heart,” one reads. Another player wrote: “It will never change how we feel about you. We love you to the end.”

While the Thetford players embraced the news that one of their own had made the deeply personal decision to reveal his sexuality, his parents were not so tolerant at first.

“My mother was hysterical. She ran out of the room screaming ‘you’re not gay, you had girlfriends. No, no, no,’ he told BBC Sport.

Since leaving with his Thetford teammates on July 22, 2019, Morton has been appointed player-managerexternal link at the Eastern Counties Premier League club, which will be in Arlesey Town in the FA Cup extra preliminary round on Saturday.

By sharing his story, the 34-year-old hopes it will give confidence and strength to others in similar situations, such as defender Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, who revealed to his Sheppey United teammates last month. he was bisexual.external link

Matt Morton, player-manager of Thetford Town
Morton was named Thetford Town’s player-coach in September 2019. He has yet to complete a full season in charge due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It freaked me out”

Growing up, Morton did not lack female attention and spent his 20s in and out of relationships.

“The longest was probably a year and it happened twice,” he said. “I took care of my girlfriends. I had affection for all of them, but I never really fell in love.”

Morton first questioned his sexuality in January 2018 after being attracted to someone on Instagram.

“When we met face to face it was the feeling you have to grow up when it’s your first love, your first date,” he added.

It was another three months before Morton spoke to his personal assistant at work.

“I was dealing with it all and asking myself questions like, ‘Am I gay or is that just this guy?’ “Why hasn’t this happened before? Is it a phase?”

“To be honest, that freaked me out a bit.

“The only reason I ended up telling someone about it was because the relationship was over and it was driving me crazy. It was the lowest moment of my life.”

It was another year before Morton felt confident telling a friend and best friend, then his brother, sister, cousins ​​and teammates.

The last on her list to say were her parents, Kelvin and Olga. It was deliberate. “They are both pretty old fashioned,” he said.

The conversation did not go well.

Matt Morton, player-manager of Thetford Town
Morton realized he was gay at the age of 31 in January 2018

“I haven’t spoken to my mother for three months”

Morton’s father, Kelvin, was a Premier League and Football League referee from 1986 to 1995. In 1989 he awarded five penalties in 27 minutesexternal link in a match between Crystal Palace and Brighton.

Her mother, Olga, is from Belfast and “very religious”. Growing up in the family home, Morton – the youngest of three – said comments would be made if a gay man appeared on television.

“Elton John is one of my dad’s favorite artists, but he used to say something like ‘I really like his music, it’s too bad he’s gay’.”

When Morton told them about his sexuality, both parents struggled to come to terms with what they were hearing.

“Mum said ‘I can’t accept it, I won’t accept it, I will never accept it,” he added.

“My answer was ‘you will never accept me’. My dad said ‘I love you but I have a hard time with this’.”

Morton didn’t speak to his mother for another three months. “I thought I lost them,” he added.

Since then, the loopholes have been healed and Morton’s broken relationship with his parents has been mended.

Lorenzo, Morton’s partner for 18 months, has been asked to stay with Kelvin and Olga.

Matt Morton, player-manager of Thetford Town
Morton describes himself as an “old-fashioned” center-back

“The president cried when I told him”

Morton is a rarity in men’s football – a gay footballer who has come out.

Three decades later, Justin Fashanu remains the only male footballer to reveal his sexuality while playing professionally at the highest levels.

Morton plans to keep telling his story, but believes that a Premier League player who exits “would impact so many lives and reduce suicides”.

“Suicide is the biggest killer of British men under 45 and sexuality contributes to it,” he added.

“My advice to anyone who is struggling is to talk to someone you trust. I have a strong character, I have a great personality but I had to talk to someone. No one can handle it all. alone.

“People reached out to me on social media and I responded. I will continue to do so.”

Morton has been touched by the many messages of support since his release.

“I’m conceited, watch my appearance, go to the gym and worry about my hair,” he said. “In fact, I had more homophobic comments about me before I went out than I have since.

“We played a game against Needham Market last season and one of their forwards, Jose Santa from La Paz, came up to me on the pitch and said ‘you are Matt Morton, right? ? I just want to shake your hand ‘. “

Assistant manager John Taylor, who played with Dion Dublin at Cambridge, came on Saturday against Lakenheath – at the age of 56. New West Brom signing Quevin Castro scored five goals in 40 appearances for Thetford Town at the age of 17 in 2018-19.
The Thetford players donated their salary to Mulbarton Wanderers forward Adam Plumstead who broke his tibia and fibula during a game in April. English T20 fast cricketer Tymal Mills played for Thetford Town at the Under-18 level. Other former Thetford players include former Norwich striker Ian Henderson, now at Salford.

There was, however, a strange negative comment from outside the club.

“I was told that a player from another club said ‘I wouldn’t play for Thetford because Matt is gay’. That pissed me off,” said Nigel Armes, the 62-year-old Thetford chairman. years old, who cried when Morton came out.

“Matt is a well-mannered, well-spoken and determined man. I admire him. I was a little moved. I told Matt he has the full support of this club. It’s his business and his life. . “

Director of Amplify – a new health, wellness and fitness app – Morton describes himself as “happy and satisfied” and “getting on with his life”.

“I was 18 months from the moment I realized I was gay until the moment I told my family, friends and teammates,” he said.

“If I have one regret, it’s that I could have told them everything sooner, but we’re all different.”

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