Brentford

Ivan Toney opens up on his journey up the EFL ladder

Tom Gott
Ivan Toney is shining in the Premier League
Ivan Toney is shining in the Premier League / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages
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Brentford star Ivan Toney has recalled his climb up the English Football League ladder, admitting that he was close to giving up the sport in his early days.

Having initially burst onto the scene with Northampton in League Two in 2014/15, a big move to Newcastle later brought loans to a handful of lower-league sides, including Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan, before 24 goals in 32 League One games for Peterborough earned Toney a move to Brentford in the summer of 2020.

Toney shattered records in the Championship, securing himself a chance to play in the Premier League with the Bees this season - something he told the On the Judy podcast that he always knew was coming.

"When I was in League One, I saw myself playing higher," he said. "I knew I'd be able to manage in the Championship and the Premier League. I felt like I adapted quite quickly."

'Quickly' is somewhat of an understatement. His sole season in the Championship yielded a record-setting 31 goals and ten assists, before famously giving Arsenal a torrid time in Brentford's first game of the 2021/22 Premier League season.

However, while Toney was always confident he could take his chance at the highest level, he revealed how rejection as a schoolboy at Leicester nearly ripped his opportunity away early on.

"I was at Leicester as a young boy, 13 or 14," he revealed. "I was there for two years, it came to the time where I was going to get a scholarship or not. As I was walking into the training ground, I saw the kit man, and he said 'Oh, I'm so sorry'.

"I'm thinking, 'For what?' He said, 'Oh, you've not been in for your meeting?' So, from when I heard that, he must've known something, and when I went in, they said they weren't going to offer me anything.

"I got released from there and I was going to stop football for a bit. Being that young, you take the rejection hard. But before I got released, there was a game against Northampton, and the Northampton coach said to the Leicester coach, 'If anyone gets released, let us know'.

"Northampton were hitting my family's number up like, 'Bring him down, bring him down'. At the time, I wasn't really fussed, I didn't want to do this. I've been rejected here, I don't want to go there, my mind wasn't in it."

Fortunately, Northampton did manage to convince Toney to sign on, and some good showings in League Two in 2014/15 saw Wolves come knocking on the striker's door.

Toney travelled to Molineux and was ready to get the deal done, only for things to collapse at the last minute, which allowed Newcastle to swoop in and strike a deal.

"At 18, moving to the Premier League, it was crazy," he recalled. "I 100% thought I'd made it. 18, moving to the Premier League - I thought I was here now, time to relax, take my shoes off and chill, not knowing because I was so young that there was a lot more to it.

"The first few weeks [of being in the Premier League] were crazy. From League Two, the tempo compared to the Premier League was so different.

"When the gaffer told me to warm up [for his debut against Chelsea], I was thinking, 'I don't want to come on here, wait yes I do, wait no I don't'. I tired myself out panicking and thinking that I'd have to come on and be against [Kurt] Zouma and [Branislav] Ivanovic. I play with these guys on FIFA, now I'm playing against them.

"When I came on, the gaffer just told me to enjoy myself and put myself about. When I came on, I was acting like I was part of this. You can't act surprised. I bullied Zouma a bit. I'd say it was a decent debut."


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