England manager Gareth Southgate revealed he has spoken with Ivan Toney since his eight-month suspension from all football-related activity and insists the Brentford striker can still make his squad for the European Championships in 2024.
Southgate said he disagreed with the nature of the Toney’s ban, imposed by an independent regulatory commission after the 27-year-old admitted to 232 breaches of the Football Association’s betting rules, and was critical of the striker’s expulsion from the game until the final four months of his suspension.
Toney, who was handed his first England debut by Southgate in March despite the charges hanging over his head, is unable to return to training with Brentford until mid-September and the England manager said he did not believe such a punishment was the best form of rehabilitation.
“I have spoken with him,” Southgate said as he announced his squad for the upcoming qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia. “I don’t know if that’s allowed, by the way. If it isn’t then they can ban me and not add to his.
“Look, the ban is the ban. It is what it is. I think he 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 that we just leave somebody so they are not allowed to be a part of the football community.
“I don’t think that’s how we should work, I don’t think that’s how the best rehabilitation programmes would work. But 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. I think he is a resilient guy with great character and we are here to support.”
Toney has scored 20 goals for Brentford in the Premier League this season and was charged with breaking FA rule E8, which refers to players being barred from betting on games or sharing information for betting purposes.
Toney admitted to the charges back in February, after they were issued in December 2022, but despite the knowledge of the ongoing hearings, Southgate elected to hand the forward a maiden England cap on March 26 against Ukraine at Wembley.
Toney will be unable to play until January next year, with Euros in Germany taking place that summer. Asked whether the striker could still make his squad for the tournament, Southgate replied: “Yeah, without a doubt.
“It is not ideal because he is going to miss a large chunk of the season and you don’t know after that sort of period out how he is going to adapt physically and how he is going to play. But it is possible for him.
“There would still be time. He has really impressed us with the way he has played and I like his personality. I like his belief and the way he goes about his job. So everything is still possible with him I think.”