A few years ago, I started a column with various slang – and derogatory - terms for homosexuals. I received a bit of stick for it, but the idea was to replicate what I believed an openly gay footballer would encounter in this country as he emerged from the tunnel in his first match after coming out.

At the time, sadly, I was of the opinion that society here - and particularly Scottish football - was neither enlightened nor progressive enough to accept a homosexual player without resorting to the sort of crude jibes that you might once have heard flung about back in the playground.

I wasn’t entirely convinced mind you that fans who did subject a player to such abuse would recognise it as an issue, or recognise themselves as homophobic either in their day-to-day lives. In the same way that casual racism was once excused, and arguably sectarianism still is, it would be played down as fans trying to put an opposition player off by highlighting what was ‘different’ about them.

The evidence to support the theory came from the fact that there had been no openly gay players playing their trade in Scotland, or even in the UK, since Justin Fashanu three decades previously. That was either one hell of a statistical anomaly, or the players felt the same and knew full well the backlash they would receive. There would also be the pressure of being the trailblazer, where the individual would then forever be associated with his sexuality, rather than be judged purely as a footballer.

Maybe though, just maybe, the times they are a-changing.

The decision by Blackpool player Jake Daniels to go public with the fact he was gay last month at the age of just 17 was brave, and he was rightly lauded far and wide.

The vast majority of comments directed to him via social media were positive and supportive. He has yet to play a competitive match since his announcement, mind you, so the acid test may come when opposition fans get into that familiar tribal mode where anything often goes.

Gloomily, Carl Fearn, the co-chair of Gay Gooners – the first and largest LGBT+ fans group in England, has already predicted that the largely warm sentiments directed towards Daniels online will not be reflected on the terraces.

“We’re never going to push them but when they do come out we will absolutely support them because we know that they will get abuse,” Fearn said. “Jake will be getting abuse next season.

“I would personally advocate points deductions for homophobic abuse against a specific player. I can tell, it’s definitely coming. I’m picking up on the grapevine that some supporters have already got their chants ready.”

There is no doubt that will be the case, but in the here and now, it has been heartening to see the widely congratulatory tone of the response to Daniels.

By taking that step, he may well inspire other gay players to do likewise, not that they owe it to anyone. But if they feel more comfortable in their skin by publicly declaring their sexuality, then more power to them.

We have yet to see a player from north of the border follow suit, but perhaps inspired by Daniels, two referees have decided to make it known that they are professionals operating in the sport up here who also just happen to be gay.

It could be argued that this step is even braver than the one taken by Daniels. Referees already take an enormous amount of stick, after all, so they hardly need to hand football fans any further ammunition. It has to be hoped that any abuse directed at Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson in the future continues to focus on their perceived optical deficiencies, and perhaps the odd accusation of being born out of wedlock.

By sticking their heads above the parapet like this, perhaps soon there will be no need for the big announcement or the accompanying interview to explain the reasoning behind a gay professional’s decision to go public, and rather than a torrent of well-wishes, news of a player being gay will be met the way it should be - with a shrug of the shoulders.

There will be many who are already at such a stage, and will feel that this shouldn’t be an issue. But there is still a stigma attached to homosexuality in football, and progress will only be possible because of the bravery of those like Daniels, Napier and Wilson, who should be commended for putting the reservations they must have had to the side so that others may be emboldened by their example.

"I wish I'd done it sooner, but now felt like the right time to add to the voices that are already out. It's really important in terms of visibility,” Napier said.

"As well as heart-warming messages, there have been a few heart-breaking ones too; people who have walked away from playing or refereeing from a young age because they were scared of coming out or being found out.

"I'd like us to get to a place when this isn't news. I'd like it to be an organic process. Think about end of season celebrations when the players bring their girlfriends, wives and kids onto the pitch. I'd like people to discover a player's sexuality because they bring along their husband or boyfriend - or fans see partners together on social media.

"But, until people are there to be seen, that's not going to happen. So I'd ask those saying they don't care to be patient and give us their support so others do feel more comfortable."

So, kudos to the three individuals mentioned here. We can only hope that soon we are not reacting to some hideous, homophobic abuse they have encountered at their place of work.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t still harbour such fears for them, but given the bravery they have all displayed, I harbour no such fears about how they would handle it.