Ivan Toney continued his electrifying form with a double in Brentford’s 2-0 win over Brighton – so can England afford to leave him out?
Toney scored a sublime backheel flick for the opener in Friday’s win and slotted in a penalty, which he won himself when being fouled by Joel Veltman.
That takes him up to 55 goals in 100 games since joining Brentford from Peterborough in 2020.
But more pressingly, he is level on Premier League goals with England’s first-choice striker Harry Kane on eight this season.
Only Manchester City phenomenon Erling Haaland, with 15, has more.
Across 2022, only Kane (21) and Son Heung-min (18) have scored more Premier League goals than Toney’s 15.
Add to that, Toney has never missed a Premier League penalty, admitting part of his success is thinking of the “beach and cocktails”.
Now, is there any reason Gareth Southgate could do with a good penalty-taker when he is naming his World Cup squad next month?
‘I think about being on a beach with a cocktail’
Toney, 26, spent the majority of his career in the Football League until Brentford’s promotion in 2021.
If he does play in Qatar, it would be his international debut at any age level. He was in England’s squad for their recent Nations League games but did not play.
“I see myself at the top, I see myself as the best player on the pitch. You have to have that mentality,” he said after the win over Brighton.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can for the team and if it’s enough to get on the plane to the World Cup then so be it.
“All I can do is do my job and then hopefully it is enough. If I get to the World Cup then hopefully I’ll get some minutes there.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank said: “I think he’s getting closer and closer [to being alongside world-class strikers].
“If you want to create a top scorer then they need to be technically very good so the way he can connect with the ball, left foot, right foot, the free-kick against Leeds, the chip, he’s so good technically. He’s just got that character about him as well.”
The Dane added that if he was England manager, he would be in his World Cup squad. “It’s up to Gareth to choose but Ivan has something special not many have,” he said.
“It would be a big thing if he got the first cap, that would be amazing. It would be the first time in 80 years for this club.
“I am biased but I think he is a perfect fit for the squad if you want that flexibility for the squad.”
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Toney’s penalty record is remarkable – scoring 25 of his 26 career efforts. His only failure has been in Peterborough’s 4-0 League One defeat by Barnsley in 2018 when Adam Davies saved his kick.
For Brentford he has scored all 20, including eight in the Premier League. Only two players have taken more spot-kicks in the competition without missing – Yaya Toure and Dimitar Berbatov.
“I don’t even know where I am going until I kick the ball for the penalties,” admitted Toney. “The keeper tries to give it the talk but I just walk away, think of different things, like being on a beach with a cocktail.”
Last November, less than four months after Toney was an established Premier League player, Frank called him the best penalty-taker in the world.
“I’m glad I said it very early,” said Frank. “He’s backing me up. Looking past the record, I see coolness, technique and strategy.”
If Toney does go to Qatar it will cap a remarkable rise for a player who started off for Northampton in League Two before a move to Newcastle, where he made just two Premier League appearances.
He had loan spells with Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan, before joining Peterborough on a permanent deal and then Brentford.
“It is OK having good coaches but if the player doesn’t listen or has the wrong attitude he has no chance,” former Premier League striker Dion Dublin said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “Toney must have said to himself ‘I need to take on board all this information’.”
Can Southgate ignore him?
Ex-England international Dublin thinks that Toney could not only go to Qatar, but also start for the Three Lions.
Bar Kane, Toney has comfortably outscored all his rivals for a centre-forward slot – Roma’s Tammy Abraham, Newcastle’s Callum Wilson and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
“Right now he could quite easily start for England,” Dublin told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Defenders would fear playing against him because he is finding ways of scoring that others aren’t. When you are in form like that, just give him the ball.”
England have only ever won one World Cup shootout, against Colombia in 2018, and lost the Euro 2020 final on spot-kicks to Italy.
On Sky Sports, Jamie Carragher – who missed in England’s penalty shootout loss to Portugal in 2006 – said: “Is his penalty record a reason on its own to take him to Qatar?
“That record is absolutely astonishing. You know it is a goal before he takes the penalty. It’s all in the eyes.
“If England are to do well in the World Cup they will probably need to win a penalty shootout. Toney is not a bad player to have available.
“I don’t see a great array of strikers pushing Harry Kane. That penalty record has to give him a stronger reason than people he is battling. He has to go.”
Another former England defender in Gary Neville said: “I played in eight tournaments and was knocked out with five penalty shootouts.
“To not have him there would be a big risk.”