Ivan Toney on his first England call-up and World Cup hopes

Much like Leicester City’s James Justin, Toney has been called up to England this year despite only playing in League One a couple of years ago.

The incredible rise should give hope to hundreds of players who work in the Football League and Toney said: “It’s nice to think I could inspire some people. It’s what I want to do in life. I want to inspire people to do unthinkable things and to believe that maybe I haven’t played in any of the age groups but I can still get promoted to the senior team. It is possible. If I can do it, why can’t others?

Toney began his footballing career with his cousin and friends outside his home in Eastfield, Northampton before joining Soccerstars at nearby Upton Sixfields aged nine.

At 13 he followed his older cousin Nathan Hicks in signing for Leicester City but after a couple of seasons it was decided he would not be given a scholarship.

A move to his local club Northampton Town followed and he became the club’s youngest player when he made his debut aged 16.

Toney’s 13 goals in his first 60 games earned him a major move to Premier League side Newcastle United in 2015 aged 19, but he was loaned out to Barnsley after just four games in his first season.

The forward spent the next three and a half seasons in the Premier League while on loan and then to Peterborough after a permanent move.

Toney became one of the Football League’s deadliest forwards during his time with The Posh, scoring 49 goals in 94 appearances in all competitions.

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So it came as no surprise when Brentford and head coach Thomas Frank decided to sign Toney in the summer of 2020 and he repaid that trust in the first season by firing her for promotion and then Premier League safety.

And it was Frank who told Toney he had been called up by England, with the striker revealing: “I was driving to training and the Brentford manager called me. I was actually a bit late so I figured he would call me about that, but it was because I had been called up to the senior team.

“When he told me I was speechless. I did not know what to say. It was a crazy moment and I couldn’t wait to call my family and share the news with them.

“I called my family group chat because I couldn’t call one and the other – they would have been a bit cranky if I did – so I called everyone at the same time.

Everyone cheered when I told them the news and there was screaming for 20 minutes!

“My father honked everywhere. People must have thought he was going insane.

“It was a very emotional moment for my whole family and it’s such a great achievement to represent my country.”

Toney doesn’t miss the important role played by his family.

He explained: “It’s the sacrifices made by my mum, dad and sister and everyone around me. She was at university with my sister and she would take me to soccer and then do her university work in the car while waiting to take me home while my mom and dad worked. So she played a role [in me being here].

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“My mother played a big role. She would make dinner and sometimes she would make sure I ate and not she. And my father played a big part too, taking me all over the country, exams here and there, and coming to every game – my sister always came to support me.

“Everyone has played a role so it’s a little bit sweeter now that I’m sitting here in an English top representing the country. Not only did I do that, but everyone around me played a huge part and I can’t thank them enough.”

Family is a theme that comes up regularly in Toney’s interview, even when it comes to this year’s World Cup.

It has been four years since England reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup and if you were to pick an England squad for the 2022 edition back then, few would include a striker who had just spent the season on loan at Wigan Athletic and Scunthorpe United .

But Toney’s family believed back in 2018 that the striker could make the plane to Qatar this winter and he now has a chance to impress Southgate at his last camp before deciding on England’s World Cup squad.

Toney said: “The last time my family saw the World Cup, they said, ‘Next time you go to the World Cup.’ You don’t really think four or five years later as a player but then as the World Cup got closer and closer my chances increased and when you finally sit here you can see where my parents came from and why they had that belief in me, that one day I would have this opportunity. Here I am now, one step closer to hopefully taking part in the World Cup.”

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He continued: “I always had the attitude that I was a League One player but the attitude was that of a Premier League player and when you manifest that there is a huge opportunity for you to do that.

“Wherever I’ve been, whether I’ve been on loan here, there or anywhere, I’ve always had the attitude that one day I would be a Premier League player and now I’m a Premier League player and an England international. So I think I believed in myself and believed in my abilities from a young age and now here I am.”

Toney spoke on Tuesday, exactly two months to the day before the first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the next week could be a crucial one in Toney’s career.

England travel to Italy for a game on Friday night before hosting Germany on Monday at Wembley Stadium, linked via EE. This will be the last England game before Southgate names his World Cup squad.

And Toney said: “I now have the opportunity to put my name forward for the World Cup squad so it’s up to me now and I have to take the opportunity with both hands and hopefully I can do enough to make the manager memorable remain the World Cup.”

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