Southgate stresses importance of close-knit England squad
England boss Gareth Southgate admitted that he is risking a ban from the Football Association after speaking with Brentford striker Ivan Toney before his recent England squad announcement. Toney was not named in the group for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia next month, owing to his eight-month ban for gambling offences.
Toney is banned until January 16, 2024, after admitting 232 breaches of the FA’s betting rules, as Harry Kane, Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford are the recognised strikers called up to Southgate’s squad in his absence. The England head coach has admitted that he has spoken with Toney following his ban, but is not sure if that conversation violates the punishment and has accepted that he could also be sanctioned.
“I have spoken with him. I don’t know if that’s allowed, by the way,” the England manager said. “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 any 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 that he can develop himself or be a better person at the end of it or have experiences that he might not experience?
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“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. 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.”
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Southgate was very supportive of Toney and claimed that once the 27-year-old returns in January, the door is still very much open in regards to being selected for the national team. Southgate even admitted that he could feature in next year’s Euros squad. “Yeah without a doubt he could play at the Euros),” Southgate added.
“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 physically he is going to adapt 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 personality. I like his belief and the way he goes about his job. So everything is still possible with him I think.”
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