Soccer

Gareth Southgate reveals the game that convinced him to select Ivan Toney

Gareth Southgate insists there was no reason not to include Ivan Toney in his England squad, despite a potential ban hanging over the player’s head.

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The in-form Brentford striker is in Southgate’s first squad since the World Cup quarter-final exit to France in December for Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine this month.

But Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling, who missed his side’s 3-1 win at Leicester at the weekend, is ruled out of the opening qualifying matches due to injury.

Toney is still waiting for a Football Association verdict after being charged with 262 breaches of FA gambling rules, with a lengthy suspension possible.

He scored his 17th goal of the season in Brentford’s 2-0 win at Southampton on Wednesday and Southgate said there was no reason he could not be selected.

Indeed, the Three Lions boss witnessed first hand last month how Toney terrorised Arsenal’s defence during a controversial 1-1 draw, a performance which contributed to him being selected ahead of Newcastle’s Callum Wilson.

‘The fact is he is playing for his club and playing well for his club, there hasn’t been a trial as yet or any judgement so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him,’ said Southgate.

England squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham)

Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

‘Before the World Cup Callum Wilson had a brilliant run of form, hit form just at the right time but he has had a little bit of an injury which has inhibited his performance in the last few weeks.

‘Ivan has been consistent across the season. As soon as we announced the (World Cup) squad he had a brilliant game at Manchester City which was typical But he is playing really well, I like his presence in games.

‘I saw his game against Arsenal where he was outstanding  deserves his opportunity.’

Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker, being investigated by police after allegedly exposing himself in a bar, is included in the 25-man squad.
Southgate added: “It is a complicated situation, I have spoken at length with him.

‘He is back playing with his club, there is no conclusive evidence to leave him out at this stage. I have to be careful on being the moral judge on things.

‘We have had a couple of long conversations, we feel we want him with us, but we know when you’re an England player there is an ever higher bar on how you conduct yourselves and what is expected. We are not taking those decisions lightly.’

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