Brentford striker Ivan Toney insists he ‘never doubted’ he would receive an England call-up
Ivan Toney took the road less traveled to the top but ‘never doubted’ his England opportunity would come, with the Brentford striker vowing to seize his chance to make it to the World Cup.
A product of the Northampton youth set-up, Toney spent time on loan at Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan after failing to break through after joining Newcastle.
He left St James’ Park permanently for Peterborough in 2018 and a goal-filled spell saw him join Brentford two years later – a move that has gone better than either side could have dreamed as he stands to becoming the club’s first England international since Leslie Smith in 1939.
Ivan Toney has said he was ‘never in doubt’ that he would receive a call-up to the England squad
The 26-year-old helped the Bees to promotion in his first campaign and five league goals at the start of this season led to Gareth Southgate including the uncapped frontman in England’s final camp before Qatar.
“It’s so surreal sitting here in an English top flight,” said Toney, who was still playing in League One just over two years ago.
– It is such a privilege and it is huge for me and my family, and also for my club.
‘I think nobody’s been called up (from Brentford) since 1939 or something like that, so it’s a big achievement and I’m very proud of it and hopefully I can make the most of it.’
The striker has been called up after scoring five goals for Brentford this season
Asked if he could have foreseen playing for England during his time in the Football League, he said: ‘Never doubted it. I feel that I had full confidence in myself.
‘I feel like you just have to keep working hard and it makes it that much sweeter when you get the chance.
‘I’ve never played for any of the other age groups so to go straight to the senior squad is a huge achievement and I’m very proud of it. I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way’.
Toney could have represented Jamaica had things played out differently 18 months ago – a time when the striker’s focus on Brentford’s play-off hopes meant he put his international future on the back burner.
Toney is set to become the club’s first England international since Leslie Smith in 1939
That talk “won out a bit” as his dreams of representing England rose after promotion, leading to a potentially timely run to the finish line given the World Cup looms in November.
“This is my opportunity now,” Toney said. ‘I have to take it with both hands and I’m excited. I’m sure of it and I’m very hungry.
‘I’ve worked for this moment and here it is now, so there’s no way I’m going to let it go.
‘So I’m going to take it with both hands and hopefully I can make the most of this opportunity that I have.’
The 26-year-old has always had the ambition of one day being called up to England
Toney will be hoping to make his international debut in the Nations League games against Italy or Germany and provide a special moment for his friends and family.
“The sacrifices my mom made and my dad and my sisters — everyone around me from the early stages,” Toney said.
‘My sister went to uni, she used to take me to football and do her uni work while she waited for me and then took me home while my dad and mum worked.
‘My mother played a big role, cooking dinner for me and making sure I ate and not her.
Toney has come a long way since his days as a League One striker for Peterborough
‘She played her role massively and also my dad took me all over the country, whether it was for trials here or there. My other sister came to football all the time and the fact that everyone has played their part makes it that little bit sweeter here now in an England top representing my country.
‘It’s not just me who has done this. Everyone around me has played a big part and I can’t thank them enough.’
Toney’s father, Ivan Sr., ‘bit the horn for ages’ to celebrate his son’s first call, while mother Lisa screamed down the phone she usually sends words of encouragement on.
“She texts me before every game, ‘be a beast on the field, put your body around, be present on the field’ – and I definitely have,” Toney added.
‘They say to leave the referee alone because I like to get in their ear and give them a bit.
‘They have all played their part and helped me become the player I am today and I just can’t thank them enough. This is a massive step in my career now.’