By Sam Wallace
Gareth Southgate has dismissed concerns about selecting Ivan Toney in his latest England squad despite the Brentford striker facing 262 Football Association charges for breaking its rules on active players gambling on matches.
Toney, currently third in the Premier League golden boot race, was picked by Southgate for the second time, and ahead of Callum Wilson who went to the Qatar World Cup finals. Toney is co-operating with the FA and has admitted some of the breaches which have been made against him in two tranches.
Southgate picked the uncapped Toney for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine having selected him for his last squad before the World Cup last year. He praised Toney’s confidence in what has been a spectacular season for the 27-year-old on the pitch. Southgate said: “The fact is he is playing and is available for his club, there hasn’t been a trial or any judgement so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him.”
Indeed, Roy Hodgson selected John Terry for England’s Euro 2012 squad despite the player awaiting a criminal trial over the allegation that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand. Terry was found not guilty by Westminster Magistrates’ Court after the tournament but was later found guilty of a similar charge laid by the FA and heard by an independent commission. The FA’s insistence that Terry could no longer be captain for Euro 2012 led to Fabio Capello’s resignation but the governing body never blocked his selection.
Southgate said that Toney had edged out Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins for a place. Raheem Sterling is injured. “His [Toney] link play is good,” Southgate said. “In terms of similarities with Harry [Kane], he’s got a lovely touch, can see a pass, he’s got a little bit more aerial threat than Marcus [Rashford] for sure, and probably some of the other contenders.
“I also like his [Toney’s] sense of belief on the pitch. I saw him at Arsenal and he went on to that pitch thinking he would cause some havoc that day. That’s a good sign, that’s what you need if you’re going to play for your country. The challenge is always to convert from one environment and take that same mentality and belief into the next.”
Southgate also selected Kyle Walker, despite a police investigation into allegations he exposed himself in a bar in Cheshire this month. Southgate said: “It’s a complicated situation, I’ve spoken at length with him. He is back playing with his club, there’s no conclusive evidence to leave him out at this stage.
“I have to be very careful on being the moral judge on things. We feel we want him with us, we feel it’s the right thing to do. When you are an England international there is an even higher bar on how you conduct yourself. I don’t say we are taking those decisions likely.”
Southgate declined to go into details on the nature of the conversation with Walker when asked later. “As we sit here today there was no conclusive reason not to select him in the squad,” he said. “If that changes then we’ve got to review the situation. And he would understand that as well.”
He left out Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold who has struggled this season to hit previous standards. There was also no place for Ben White who left the World Cup early for personal reasons. Squad stalwart Conor Coady, currently out the Everton team, was also omitted. Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips, both retained their places despite a lack of first team football. Marc Guehi came into the squad.