Ivan Toney says he lost his love for football during an eight-month betting ban but is ready to return and repay Brentford’s support during his lengthy lay-off.
The 27-year-old England striker has not played since last May, when he was found guilty of 232 breaches of the Football Association’s gambling rules, but is set to make his Premier League comeback against Nottingham Forest on January 20.
He has spent his time away from the game working hard on his own, in extra sessions at the club and on solo trips to Nashville, and admits struggling to come to terms with his punishment.
“I didn’t watch football for a while. In a way I punished myself. There was a stage I probably did fall out of love with football,” he told Sky Sports.
“Missing games and not being around my team-mates was tough. I was confused but what’s done is done now, I can’t dwell on these things. Life’s not fair, we know this, the more you dwell on it the more it’s going to hurt you.”
Toney has been linked with a big-money move, with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea reportedly interested in a player who netted 20 times last season, but he is keen to show his appreciation for the Bees.
“(Brentford manager) Thomas Frank has been nothing but the biggest help I could have asked for – the whole club has,” Toney added.
“From putting on extra sessions for me, from taking their time out to put a session on and go outside when it’s raining when they’re not supposed to be in. I have a lot to repay them and I can’t wait to try and do that.
“The fans were behind me. Even when I wasn’t at their games, they were singing my name. A friend of mine sent me a video of the fans singing my name, I got goosebumps to know that they’re still behind me, even though I’m not there.
“With Brentford, they’re struggling at the moment but I’m sure when I’m back I will play a big part to get them out of the losing form they’ve been in. I can’t wait to get back and be helping my team-mates.”
Toney’s time away also helped focus his mind on life outside of football and he came away with bold plans for his future off the field.
“I want to start my own businesses, start my own clothing brand. One thing I want to do is get into acting, which I think I’d be quite good at,” he said.