Toney faces biggest battle of a career that proved doubters wrong
LONDON, May 17 (Reuters) – It is fair to say Ivan Toney’s route to be regarded as one of the best striker’s in English soccer has been a circuitous one around some of the country’s least fashionable staging posts.
At the age of 27, however, the former Newcastle United reject had finally proved those who doubted his talent wrong and his career seemed set to ignite.
Sadly for Toney, less than two months after earning his first England cap, he finds himself facing yet another battle, this time a self-inflicted one after being banned for eight months because of 232 breaches of the FA’s betting rules. read more
Rather than his career moving to another level, potentially with a big-money move to a top-six club and becoming an England regular, Toney will not kick a competitive ball until next January — an eternity in the life of a goal-hungry footballer.
It is a huge blow to Premier League club Brentford, for whom he has scored 20 league goals this season — a total bettered only by Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.
It is also a loss to England manager Gareth Southgate, for whom Toney offered an alternative to take the strain off Kane.
Toney, who soccer statistics website www.transfermarkt.co.uk values at 50 million pounds, may still return once he has served his suspension to be in the mix for England’s Euro 2024 squad and the fact he will be free to train with his club in September despite still being banned will be a tonic.
But having worked so hard to rise through the ranks, Toney must now overcome another hurdle in a career moulded far away from the pristine training grounds of England’s elite clubs.
Like some former goal scoring greats — the likes of Ian Wright and Les Ferdinand — Toney did it the hard way, surviving the school of hard knocks in the lower echelons.
He made his Football League debut at the age of 16 for his local club Northampton Town in 2012 — the youngest player ever to play for the Cobblers.
After scoring 13 goals in 60 appearances he was spotted and subsequently signed by Premier League club Newcastle United in 2015. It looked like being his big break.
But instead of becoming the new number nine the success-starved club craved, Toney barely kicked a ball for the Magpies.
After only two appearances he was loaned out to Barnsley, then Shrewsbury Town, Wigan Athletic and then Scunthorpe United.
Toney was finally off-loaded by Newcastle in 2018 — joining Peterborough United in move that transformed his career.
Forty goals in 76 appearances for Peterborough alerted the scouts at Brentford — the ambitious west London club whose scientific recruitment policy specifically targeted under-valued players in lower leagues with massive sell-on potential.
Toney proved the perfect fit, coming in to replace Ollie Watkins who Brentford had signed from Exeter City and sold on to Aston Villa for a huge profit.
He scored a record 31 goals in the regular 2020-21 Championship season and then two in the play offs, including in the final against Swansea City as Brentford returned to the top flight for the first time in 74 years.
Toney then erased any doubts about his ability to thrive at the highest level with 12 league goals in Brentford’s first season up in the big time and 20 in this campaign.
The story is on hold for eight months but fans of the forward will hope this chapter will be just a sub-plot in the remarkable rise of a player who refused to let go of his dream.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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