In an exclusive interview, Ivan Toney discusses his eight-month betting ban, mental health, his Euro 2024 hopes with England and falling out of love with the game; watch Toney’s Premier League return for Brentford vs N Forest on Jan 20 live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm
at the start of his eight-month betting ban />
Brentford striker Ivan Toney admits he ‘fell out of love with football’ for a while during his eight-month ban after admitting 232 breaches of the Football Association’s betting rules.
Ivan Toney admits he “fell out of love with football” at the start of his eight-month ban for breaching FA betting rules – as he prepares for his Brentford return next week.
The England international was handed his lengthy ban in the middle of May for 232 breaches of the FA’s rules for betting on football.
Toney’s ban comes to an end on January 17 and his first Premier League game back in Brentford colours will be a home game against Nottingham Forest three days later, live on Sky Sports with kick-off at 5.30pm.
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While the Brentford striker returns with speculation over his future at the west London club, Toney revealed – in an in-depth interview with Sky Sports and the Daily Mirror – that he wants to repay his team for supporting him during his ban by getting them out of a relegation battle in the second half of the season.
In the interview, which you can read in-depth below, Toney discussed:
- Critics saying he cannot reach the heights of last season
- Falling out of love with football at the start of his ban
- Sandro Tonali’s betting ban at Newcastle
- How Brentford helped him with his mental health
- Realising his desire to become an actor after football
- His England hopes ahead of Euro 2024
Toney on… claims he cannot reach the heights of last season
A reminder of what Ivan Toney will bring back to Brentford when he returns to action later this month.
At the beginning of the interview, Toney revealed he feels he is ready to play for Brentford against Forest on January 20, though the decision of his selection rests with manager Thomas Frank.
The striker did address claims made by critics that, after eight months away from top-level football, he will be unable to reach the heights of where he was last season.
“I’m going to be hungrier, I’m in better shape now,” he said. “There has been some time out, but what drives me is when people say: ‘he’s not going to be the same to where he left off’. So watch this space and see what happens.
“That’s their mentality, they haven’t got my mentality which is: nothing really bothers me. I’ve been out for so long but I know what I’m capable of to start firing again. Everyone has got their opinions but that’s life. Everyone’s opinion isn’t factual.
Ivan Toney scored a hat-trick for Brentford in a closed doors friendly against Southampton U23s as he nears a first-team return.
“There have been plenty of occasions when people have said things about me, I’ve then done what I’m capable of and then they eat their words. So, I’m pretty confident this will be the same thing around this time.
“It’s just about coming back as strong as possible, I notice I’ve got a short space of time to find my form but I’m sure I will.
“I am capable of doing it, the vision that I have is coming back and firing straight away. I want to be playing to the highest level possible in myself, enjoying football again.”
Toney on… falling out of love with football
A look back at Ivan Toney’s best goals in the Premier League.
Toney revealed that he initially put on weight at the start of his ban from all football activities, but the support from his friends and family got him back working with a personal trainer.
While the striker believes he is in “better shape than when I left” – he admits he did struggle with his passion for football in the first month after he was told to stop playing.
“In the first place, personally I didn’t watch football for a while, for a month and a bit. I’d only really watch Brentford games but I would flick it on now and then, just listening in the background for the chances or the scoreline, things like this,” he said.
“Before that, I was watching every single Premier League game possible. Every League One and League Two game on TV, obviously coming from those leagues. In a way, I kind of punished myself, not watching games. Then I realised: that’s not really helping me, the situation is done.
“So watch football, enjoy it, and know when you get back, you’ve got things to do. Mentally it was tough, but I think I’m quite strong in that sense. I don’t let things get to me so I brushed it aside and continued where I was going.
“There was a stage where I fell out of love with football, a bit. But then football is all that I know really. Playing football from a young age, it’s what I’m used to.
“Missing the game for a while and not being around my team-mates was tough. I feel like I’m a big personality in the dressing room, I like to make others happy and bring others up and just try to be a fun character around the whole training ground.
Image: Toney (right) describes himself as a big figure in the Brentford dressing room
“It was tough, when you got it down to yourself to train, you think I can miss today or go tomorrow. Then tomorrow, I’ll go the next day. But then before you know it, you’re getting heavy and putting on weight. You’re not doing the right things and getting bad habits.
“The first week or two, I just thought: forget it, I will just chill and then when I’m back I’ll be ready to go. But the people around me made sure it wasn’t the case.
“I think I’m in better shape than when I left. I’m down in weight, more shredded, and hitting the gym every day.”
Toney on… Tonali’s betting ban
Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali was applauded off in his final Premier League appearance before his 10-month ban for betting.
Toney was not the only Premier League player to receive a lengthy ban for breaching betting rules in 2023, with Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali also undergoing a period on the sidelines.
Tonali has admitted to betting on matches in Italy as an AC Milan player and, in October, was given a 10-month ban by FIFA. His co-operation in the investigation by Turin prosecutors helped the 23-year-old to avoid a potential three-year ban.
The Italian midfielder will not be able to return until late August 2024, meaning he will miss the rest of the Premier League season, plus the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany. But crucially, Tonali is allowed to train with Newcastle during the ban, while Toney was not allowed to enter the Brentford training ground for the first three months of his ban.
Asked about why Tonali is allowed to train but he was not, Toney said: “I was a bit confused but what is done is done now. I can’t dwell on it now saying it’s not fair, but life’s not fair. We all know this.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank says more ‘education and work in the community’ is needed rather than lengthy bans handed out to players who breach betting rules.
“In life you have to get on with things. The more you dwell on things the more it’s going to hurt you. Especially when you can’t change anything, it’s pointless.
“It’s not going to sit right in your head for no reason, something that you can’t change. Looking at it now, it probably isn’t fair – but who cares now?”
Toney on… Brentford helping him with his mental health
Brentford striker Ivan Toney says he feels like he needs to repay the club for the way they have supported him during his eight-month ban after admitting 232 breaches of the Football Association’s betting rules
Toney paid a heartfelt tribute to Brentford for helping him through the ban – highlighting the work of manager Frank, as well as former Bees captain Pontus Jansson.
But Toney made a special mention of a conversation on mental health with current Brentford skipper Christian Norgaard, who asked the striker if he was fine in himself during his time on the sidelines.
“My personality is a strong personality and I always am this bubbly person. But for someone to actually sit you down and ask you, even though I’m always good – and even when I’m not good, I will be good – it meant a lot because it showed he actually cared,” said Toney.
“All the other team-mates have been messaging me so for him to come up to me, being a big personality, meant a lot.
“It’s kind of a hard question to come to because it’s quite a personal question. Very few will express how they’re actually feeling.
“There’s a stigma around that men in football have to be strong and not express their feelings on how they are about something. Once we get past that stigma of hiding your feelings, more problems will be solved.”
Asked how his mental health was during the ban, Toney said: “It was a bit of a rollercoaster. But how I am, I feel like I’m quite strong but I see the positives in life.
“I always think there’s always someone worse off. My situation, it’s just that I can’t play football. I know other people in life are fighting for their lives.
“Things like this, you can’t take anything for granted and look at the positives. Things happen for a reason.”
Toney on… becoming an actor after football?!
Brentford striker Ivan Toney says he would like to get into acting once his career in football is over.
With Toney banned from all football activities between May and September 2023, the Brentford striker took some time out to reflect on what life away from the sport could look like.
“I feel that sometimes you just need a break from a lot of things, to go somewhere and clear your head and just relax,” he said. “It’s been quite peaceful. I feel I know myself a lot better than I do before.
“My life was just football, then home. Football, then home. Now I realise there’s a lot more to football.
“I was thinking about life after football, what if I didn’t have it? With the time off, it allowed me to work out what I want to do with my spare time, if football wasn’t an option.
“There are a lot of things: I want to open my own business and starting my own clothing brand. I want to get into acting, which I think I would be quite good at. But who knows? There are a lot of opportunities out there, if you want to do something then do it. Time will tell for sure.”
Toney on… his England hopes for Euro 2024
Ivan Toney says his target is to get back to the form that earned him and England call-up with the aim to be part of the squad for Euro 2024.
When his ban was handed to him in the middle of May, Toney was not just a 20-goal Premier League striker, he was also an England international.
The Brentford forward was handed his debut cap for Gareth Southgate’s side during a Wembley win over Ukraine in March – before his chances of more international appearances in 2023 were ended due to his ban.
Toney will now join a pool of top strikers looking to become Harry Kane’s deputy for England ahead of Euro 2024 in Germany this summer. The likes of Ollie Watkins, who has nine league goals and 10 assists for Aston Villa this season, is also in the running, along with Callum Wilson, Dominic Solanke and Eddie Nketiah.
Asked if a spot at this year’s Euros is a target for him, Toney replied: “100 per cent. That’s the aim. That’s the goal, to try and get back to my form and be involved in that.
“We know there are other great strikers at the moment and they are doing so well. But it’s up to me to come back firing and be back in the frame. It’s going to take hard work, and dedication, that’s the goal to look towards – and being involved in that would be a great achievement.
Image: Ivan Toney during his England debut after coming on as a late second-half substitute against Ukraine last March
“If somebody is doing well and scoring goals, it doesn’t matter who they’re playing for. It’s a great chance to put yourself in the window to be playing for England.
“There are great strikers around at the moment, but if I do what I’m capable of, scoring goals and assisting, I will give myself a great chance.”
News of Toney’s betting breaches first reached national news in November 2022, the same month that Gareth Southgate picked his England squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
In previous interviews, Toney claimed that this news was leaked to stop him being picked for the World Cup, and now admits that watching the Qatar tournament that year was difficult.
“I did watch a bit,” said Toney about watching the tournament from home. “But that was even more painful, knowing I could have been involved in that.
“But what’s done is done, I can’t change anything. Yeah it was painful, life’s painful sometimes and you just have got to fly by it and concentrate what’s in front, not what’s behind.”
Watch Ivan Toney’s return to Premier League football as Brentford host Nottingham Forest live on Sky Sports on Saturday January 20; kick-off 5.30pm. The game can also be streamed using a NOW TV pass.