I’ll keep picking Ivan Toney until I am told not to
March 27, 2023
Gareth Southgate will continue to select Ivan Toney for England until he is told otherwise and does not want to be “interfering with the process” as the striker faces a ban for alleged breaches of the Football Association’s gambling rules.
Toney finally made his international debut as a late second-half substitute during the 2-0 win in the European Championships qualifier against Ukraine.
The Brentford striker is facing an anxious wait to find out whether he is facing a lengthy ban after accepting multiple betting charges but is contesting others. Southgate said the prospect of the ban would not influence whether he selects Toney or not and added that the pair had not talked about the charges.
“I only know what I’ve read,” the England manager said. “Whether he has admitted anything or not, I’ve not had that conversation with him because for me until I am instructed that there is a ban – if there is to be one – then he’s eligible for selection. Otherwise I’m interfering with the process.
“And whatever happens there will be life after that – if that happens. We have felt he has earned the right to be with us and I think it was important to know that we weren’t going to pre-judge anything. He deserves to play and he was with us on merit.”
Toney, 27, is in the form of his life and is only being outscored this season in the Premier League by Erling Haaland and Harry Kane. He is vying for the right to be Kane’s deputy but it remains to be seen whether he will be available for the June qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia with England having already taken control of Group after also defeating Italy.
Last November Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, said that Toney’s omission from the World Cup squad was purely for “footballing” reasons with the player available for selection despite the changes hanging over him.
There is some disappointment that Toney played barely 10 minutes against Ukraine, with just three touches of the ball, but Southgate defended his decision to keep Kane on until the 81st minute.
“The objective isn’t just to give people minutes of football, we’ve got to win football matches so every minute has to be earned,” Southgate said.
“He (Toney) has earned that. We’re delighted to get him on the field and give him his debut. There will be opportunities for him but these two games were critical in setting up the group.”