Gareth Southgate says football must “look after” Ivan Toney during his suspension from the game and insists his ban will not impact a possible Euro 2024 call-up.
Toney was banned from all football-related activity for eight months with immediate effect and fined £50,000 for breaching Football Association betting rules last week.
The Brentford striker is currently injured although otherwise would have been in the frame for Southgate’s squad having made his debut in March during the 2-0 victory over Ukraine.
Toney’s ban means he cannot train at Brentford until September and Southgate stressed the importance of supporting the 27-year-old during his time away from the game.
“I have spoken with him. I don’t know if that’s allowed by the way, but if it isn’t then they can ban me and not add to his,” said Southgate after unveiling his squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
“The ban is the ban. He’s recognised and accepted the punishment. What bothers me is we’ve got to look after people.
“He’s injured at the moment, what does he do about getting fit? How do we give him some structure over the next few months so that he can develop himself or be a better person at the end of it or have experiences that he might not experience?
“I don’t like the idea we just leave somebody, that they’re not allowed to be part of the football community. I don’t think that’s how we should work, how the best rehabilitation programmes work.
“He knows that we picked him because we felt until there was a charge he should be allowed to play. When he comes back, if he plays well, then we’ll pick him.
“It won’t have any bearing but I think he’ll have additional motivation through what he is experiencing. He’s a resilient guy with great character and we’re here to support him.”
Toney will return from his ban on January 16, 2024, five months before Euro 2024 kicks off in June that year. Southgate believes that is enough time for him to make the final squad.
“Without a doubt,” said Southgate on whether Toney could still be picked for the tournament. “It’s not ideal because he’s going to miss a large chunk of the season and you don’t know after that sort of period out, how physically he’s going to adapt and how he’s going to play.
“But it’s possible for him, there would still be time. He’s really impressed us with the way he’s played. I like his personality, his belief and the way he goes about his job. Everything is still possible for him.”
Brentford’s plan for life without Toney
Ivan Toney has scored 20 out of Brentford’s 57 Premier League goals this season. Without him, 37 goals scored would be equal to West Ham and Bournemouth, who have been battling relegation.
So the first questions Brentford have asked themselves are; do we have those goals in the rest of the team? Can we set up the front three to all contribute? Their 3-1 victory over Liverpool without him earlier this season suggested at some answers, while the fine 3-1 win away at Tottenham last time out – their first game without Toney – provided some definitive ones.
Bryan Mbuemo scored twice and Yoane Wissa got the other in a blistering second-half showing. Spurs have been woeful for a while, yes, but that takes nothing away from what Mbuemo, Wissa and Kevin Schade did as a combination.
Brentford consider Wissa a goal-scoring forward player, and the fact they have just given him a new contract shows they are giving the Congo international huge backing. There is an argument that Wissa could excel even further by stepping into the Toney void.
Schade is also a future top talent who the club invested in this January by signing him from Freiburg. Both this and the new Wissa contract have been done in light of the impending ban Toney has had hanging over him since last autumn.