Gareth Southgate urges football to be ‘careful’ after Ivan Toney punishment

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate has warned the game’s authorities that “we have to be really careful” as regards banning players from all football activity, as he again appeared to differ with the Football Association on the punishment for Ivan Toney.

The Brentford striker will be prevented from training for four months as part of a wider eight-month ban from playing for breaching the FA’s rules on betting, and the England manager had earlier said he doesn’t think “that’s how the best rehabilitation programmes would work”.

“I personally stick by what I said,” Southgate replied when pressed at a later briefing. “Not being allowed to play is one thing, but not being allowed to be within the football community, I think we have to be really careful how we do that.”

While Southgate reiterated that he wasn’t criticising the ban itself, he said he had been in constant contact with Thomas Frank how to bring Toney through the situation.

“I’m not questioning the decision on the ban,” the England manager said. “I don’t know all the ins and outs like what the previous cases they’re comparing it with so my only point is, as a coach, I’m thinking about the player and how do I help a player through this period.

“Fortunately I get on very well with Thomas and we speak a lot. I think he’s at a club who will get that right. I wanted him to know that it is something I’m thinking about. How we helped him like we helped Kieran Trippier when he was out of the game.”

Trippier had previously been banned for 10 weeks in December 2020 for breaching betting rules.

Toney was handed his first England debut by Southgate in March despite the charges hanging over his head, and the England manager said he did not believe such a punishment was the best form of rehabilitation.

“I have spoken with him,” Southgate said earlier as he announced his squad for the upcoming qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia. “I don’t know if that’s allowed, by the way. If it isn’t then they can ban me and not add to his.

“Look, the ban is the ban. It is what it is. I think he recognised and accepted the punishment. What bothers me is we’ve got to look after people. He’s injured at the moment, what does he do about getting fit?

“How do we give him some structure over the next few months, so that he can develop himself or be a better person at the end of it or have experiences that he might not experience? I don’t like the idea that we just leave somebody so they are not allowed to be a part of the football community.

“I don’t think that’s how we should work, I don’t think that’s how the best rehabilitation programmes would work. But he knows that we picked him because we felt until there was a charge, he should be allowed to play.

Southgate gave Toney his first England cap in March (The FA via Getty Images)
Southgate gave Toney his first England cap in March (The FA via Getty Images)

“When he comes back, if he plays well then we’ll pick him. It won’t have any bearing but I think he’ll have additional motivation through what he is experiencing. I think he is a resilient guy with great character and we are here to support.”

Toney has scored 20 goals for Brentford in the Premier League this season and was charged with breaking FA rule E8, which refers to players being barred from betting on games or sharing information for betting purposes.

Toney admitted to the charges back in February, after they were issued in December 2022, but despite the knowledge of the ongoing hearings, Southgate elected to hand the forward a maiden England cap on March 26 against Ukraine at Wembley.

Toney will be unable to play until January next year, with Euros in Germany taking place that summer. Asked whether the striker could still make his squad for the tournament, Southgate replied: “Yeah, without a doubt.

“It is not ideal because he is going to miss a large chunk of the season and you don’t know after that sort of period out how he is going to adapt physically  and how he is going to play. But it is possible for him.

“There would still be time. He has really impressed us with the way he has played and I like his personality. I like his belief and the way he goes about his job. So everything is still possible with him I think.”