Patience pays off for Ivan Toney as he earns first England call-up

Ivan the Great! Patience pays off for England new boy Toney, who snubbed several advances from Jamaica as he refused to give up on his ultimate goal of wearing the Three Lions

  • Ivan Toney has always held the ambition of one day being called up for England
  • The striker snubbed advances from Jamaica as he held out for the Three Lions
  • Gareth Southgate has called up Toney for this month’s Nations League fixtures
  • There was never a lack of faith at Brentford that his time would eventually come
  • Thomas Frank said Toney’s call-up was a ‘fantastic day for everyone at Brentford’ 

There has never been a doubt in Ivan Toney’s mind that this day would eventually come.

Jamaica tried — repeatedly — to entice the 26-year-old Brentford striker into changing his mind but Toney’s intentions were clear: he wanted to play for England.

There have been doubts that he’d ever achieve his ultimate goal, though not from Toney himself or those in his inner circle.

Brentford’s Ivan Toney has always held the ambition of one day being called up for England

He knew — they knew — he was good enough. Playing for Jamaica would have provided Toney with an alluring opportunity; a chance for an international career.

But it’s always been England for Toney. He was prepared to wait as long as necessary. He backed himself and on Thursday he was vindicated.

His first England call-up may come as shock to some, certainly to those who wrote him off at various junctures in his career.

But not Toney. No way. He was convinced this would happen, it was simply a matter of time. That’s not to say he’s arrogant. Far from it. Speak to those around him and they’ll tell you he is modest, quiet, almost insular.

Cocky? No, though his infamous tweet poking fun at Arsenal after their opening day win over the Gunners last season points towards a degree of devilment. ‘Nice kick about with the boys,’ he posted after the 2-0 victory.

The striker snubbed advances from Jamaica as he held out for a Three Lions opportunity

Gareth Southgate has called up Toney for England’s Nations League fixtures later this month

But just ask peripheral staff at Brentford’s training ground; from the chef to the cleaner — he is respectful and humble. Confident in his ability? Absolutely he is.

There was never a lack of faith at Brentford that Toney’s time would come. All the celebratory social media content to commemorate his call-up was completed well in advance of the 2pm announcement.

Indeed, Brentford deserve their slice of credit, too. Toney’s talent is beyond question, but Brentford have given the striker a platform to show the world what he is capable of when many other clubs weren’t willing to make such a commitment.

Under the guidance of Thomas Frank, Toney has gone from unknown quantity to one of the most feared strikers in the country in just over two years.

‘This is a fantastic day, especially for Ivan but also for everyone at Brentford,’ said Bees boss Frank on Thursday. ‘To have someone in the England squad is something for us to cherish.’

There was never a lack of faith at Brentford that his time would come with the national team

Thomas Frank said that Toney’s call-up was a ‘fantastic day for everyone at Brentford’

Of course, the call-up represents a double-edged sword for Brentford. There was interest in Toney from rivals over the summer, but nowhere near enough for Brentford to even consider cashing in.

However, if Toney’s career continues on this trajectory then there will come a time when Brentford will struggle to keep him.

Toney is happy in west London, invested in Frank’s project. But he is fiercely ambitious and playing at the very highest level is an aspiration for the centre forward.

But all that is secondary right now. The real story is of Toney himself and his battle against rejection to reach the pinnacle of his profession.

Undisputedly one of the leaders in Brentford’s dressing room, one of his most impressive traits according to those behind the scenes is his sheer will to win.

Toney’s chest tattoo reads: ‘Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret’

Club captain Pontus Jansson is expressive in his demeanour, a skipper in every sense of the word. But Toney is the talisman of Frank’s refreshing team, setting Brentford’s standards both in training and on match day. 

He is not always the most vocal, but it is pointed out to Sportsmail that Toney isn’t shy in coming forward if the situation demands it.

Equally, he is able to detach himself from the all-encompassing world of football and retreating home to his young family is an important release for Toney.

And then there are the tattoos. Emblazoned across Toney’s chest reads: ‘Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret.’

The war cry is particularly poignant today. Suffering, pain and discipline — Toney knows all about that. Regrets? You would imagine he doesn’t have many right now, though those who doubted him early in his career may have a few.

The 26-year-old was sent out on loan six times by Newcastle before eventually being sold

Signed by Newcastle as a 19-year-old after breaking through at hometown club Northampton, Toney was provided with an early taste of the big time but quickly discovered that life in the top flight wasn’t what he had hoped.

Steve McClaren and Rafa Benitez, the Newcastle managers he worked under, weren’t convinced and sent him out on loan.

Toney had loans at Shrewsbury, Barnsley, Wigan and Scunthorpe before leaving St James’ Park permanently in August 2018, joining Peterborough.

That’s not to say he was completely disregarded on Tyneside. The then-academy coach Peter Beardsley took a shine to Toney’s talents — though not enough for the club to show any tangible belief in him at first-team level as he left after making just four senior appearances.

But the rejection spurred him on. Looking back, Toney’s return to the lower leagues was an important factor in successfully proving his Premier League quality. 

Close to 50 goals in a two-year spell at Peterborough earned him a move to Brentford in 2020

Toney celebrates promotion with Brentford in 2021 after beating Swansea in the play-off final

It toughened him up, metaphorically and literally — Toney spent hours in the gym to ensure he wouldn’t be bullied by Football League defenders intent on giving the Premier League kid a taste of the real world.

Close to 50 goals in a two-year spell at Posh earned him a move to Brentford in 2020. The Cambridgeshire club had the foresight to insert a clause in that deal which is believed to entitle them to a £1million bonus payment if he plays for England,

Two years later — and here we are. Seventeen top-flight goals since Brentford’s promotion last season to add to the 33 he scored in that successful Championship season having joined from Peterborough for £5m.

Many will look at Toney’s debut call-up and say he’s proved people wrong. Toney looks at it differently — he’s proved himself right.

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