England football: Ivan Toney and the long road to the top

Ivan Toney may be at the center of a very modern football phenomenon, the Tweet War, in which attacks are imagined and hostilities fought via smartphone, but there’s an old-fashioned element to his progression. He will be the first Brentford player to represent England in 83 years as World War II ended Les Smith’s short international career and his CV has some throwback character.

Some are quickly followed to the top. Like some players of a previous generation, Toney took a detour. As he noted, he made it into Gareth Southgate’s senior squad without ever representing his country at lower levels. In fact, Jamaica showed interest in him before England. While only Erling Haaland, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harry Kane have scored more Premier League goals this season, the 26-year-old has played fewer games in the top flight than in the league. He earned even more in League Two but played the most in League One. He was a permanent loanee, in line for Barnsley and Wigan, Shrewsbury and Scunthorpe, but was a permanent transfer when he felt furthest from realizing his ambitions.

He had made two top-flight games for Newcastle in 2015-16, spending just 10 minutes on the pitch. And that may have summed up his Premier League experience when they sold him in 2018. “Leaving Newcastle, going to Peterborough, it was an eye opener,” he recalled. Especially when he started on the bench, understudying Jason Cummings and Matt Godden. “Before me there were other strikers who scored goals,” he said. “It was about being patient and when the opportunity comes you have to grab it with both hands.”

Which he certainly has. “I feel like you just have to keep working hard, and it makes it all the sweeter when you get the chance,” Toney said. The road to England is paved with goals: 101 in just over four years for first Peterborough and then Brentford. An expertise from 12 meters helps: He scored 24 of 25 penalties, which makes Thomas Frank the best penalty taker in the world. Toney diplomatically argued that Kane was better because he received more pressure penalties.

He came to enjoy his journey. There was a temptation to “sulk” with credit, but the experience served him well. He can look back with understanding on his three years with the books at St James’ Park. “If I were a Newcastle owner or manager and I looked at a 20-year-old Ivan Toney would I have taken him? Probably not,” he said. “There are no hard feelings. They thought I wasn’t good enough.”

If he is now, it’s thanks in part to his mother Lisa’s advice. “She texts me before every game, ‘Be a beast on the pitch. Put your body down.’” Toney’s rise to fame is a family affair in another way. His older sister Jasmine was a college student who would take her little brother to workouts and work in the car while she waited for him to finish. His mother sometimes left without dinner so Ivan could have his. Brentford is a family club and Toney’s appreciation is reflected in many others. “It makes it a lot more special,” he said. “We know that no one has been called up from Brentford for over 70 years.”

However, Southgate let Frank deliver the good news; When Toney saw the Dane’s number flash he thought he was calling for other reasons. “I was a little late so I thought he’d call about my timekeeping,” he explained. “Then he said, ‘I’m privileged to say you’ve been called up to the senior England team.’ For once in my life I had nothing to say.”

It showed a certain level of self-confidence. Toney admits he gets to talk to umpires too much. His openness also extends to thinking about playing for bigger clubs. Would he be as productive as the flashy Superstars if he was on the same type of team? “By the time I get there, who knows?” he said. “Hopefully one day I’ll be in their shoes and have the opportunity to score goals like Haaland and [Gabriel] Jesus.”

The Brazilian beat Brentford in Arsenal’s 3-0 win on Sunday. When the Bees won their first game in the Premier League at the expense of the Gunners last year, Toney tweeted: “Nice kick with the lads.” It felt a little over the top when Mikel Arteta used it to pick Arsenal up for last season’s rematch to motivate. Gabriel Magalhaes then produced a deliberately similar tweet this weekend. “I think once was fun, the second time was a little spasmodic,” Toney said. “But I bit my tongue: I wanted to answer, I wanted to nibble.” It wasn’t the kind of problem Les Smith ever encountered.

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/ivan-toney-england-squad-brentford-b2171432.html England football: Ivan Toney and the long road to the top

Fry Electronics Team

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