Gareth Southgate offers Ivan Toney Euro 2024 lifeline as England boss responds to striker’s ban
Gareth Southgate has criticised the terms of Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban from playing and says the Brentford striker “without a doubt” can make the squad Euro 2024.
Toney was last week banned from football by an independent regulatory commission after admitting to breaching a raft of Football Association betting rules.
Under the terms of his sanction, Toney, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury, is not able to train with his club for the first four months of his suspension, so cannot return to Brentford until mid-September.
Southgate handed Toney his England debut in March’s qualifying win over Ukraine and suggested the game should be doing more to look after the 27-year-old.
“I have spoken with him, I don’t know if that’s allowed by the way but if it isn’t they can ban me and not add to his,” Southgate said after naming his 25-man squad for next month’s qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
“The ban is the ban, it is what it is. I think he recognised and accepted the punishment. What bothers me is we have 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 he can develop himself, be a better person at the end of it?
“I don’t like the idea that someone is not allowed to be a part of the football community. 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.
“And if he comes back, if he plays well, we’ll pick him. So it won’t have any bearing. I think he’ll have additional motivation through what he’s experiencing, he’s a great guy with a resilient character and we’re here to support him.”
Toney will only be available for one camp before preparations for the Euros in Germany begin but asked if he could still make the squad, Southgate said: “Without a doubt. It’s not ideal because he’s going to miss a large chunk of the season and you don’t know after that period out how physically he is going to adapt and play. But it’s possible for him, they’ll still be time. He’s really impressed us with the way he’s played.
“I like his personality and I like his belief and the way he has gone about his job. So everything is still possible for him.”
Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze was named in the squad for the first time on Wednesday, while Brighton centre-half Lewis Dunk earned a recall four-and-a-half years after his debut.
Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling was the headline omission after a difficult first season at Stamford Bridge but Southgate insisted he was never in consideration due to a hamstring problem.
“I spoke with him [Sterling] a week or so ago,” Southgate said. “A general catch up. He’s not happy physically with his condition, he’s been carrying a hamstring problem. He really wasn’t in consideration.
“We didn’t get to the point of whether he should be in or out. He doesn’t think he’s operating at the level he needs. That’s the conversation I had with him.”
On Eze, Southgate said: “We’ve liked him for a long time. He was very unfortunate, before the [last] Euros, we were going to call him into a prep camp to have a look at him but he picked up an injury in training that day.
“He’s finished the season really strongly, can play in a couple of positions across the attacking line. He’s a goal-threat, he’s got nice ability and a burst of speed to go past people, take them out of the game with his dribbling skills. We’re looking forward to seeing him a bit closer.
“And everyone I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person, as well.”