Gareth Southgate says he believes Ivan Toney “deserves his chance” after including the Brentford striker in his latest England squad despite awaiting the outcome of a Football Association (FA) hearing into allegations of betting infringement.
The England boss on Thursday named his 25-man squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers in Italy and at home against Ukraine later this month, also giving call-ups to Ben Chilwell, Rhys James and Mark Guihy.
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However, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben White, Conor Cody, Callum Wilson and Raheem Sterling were all left out, although Southgate said Sterling’s absence was due to injury and the Chelsea winger would have been included had he been available.
Sources have told ESPN that Toney, uncapped at senior international level, has admitted some of the 262 allegations of betting violations and is therefore facing a potentially lengthy ban. However, the final hearing has yet to take place and Tony is protesting his innocence in some personal cases.
Toni has scored 16 Premier League goals this season — a tally surpassed only by Erling Haaland (28) and Harry Kane (20).
Asked to explain his decision during a press conference at St George’s Park, Southgate said: “The truth is, he [Toney] Playing for his club. There has been no trial or verdict yet so I don’t know on what basis we would not choose him.
“Ahead of the World Cup, Callum Wilson was in great form, hit form at the right time and he had a bit of an injury that hampered his performances in the last few weeks. Ivan has been consistent all season. He’s been playing really well. I like his presence in the game. I like his game at Arsenal. Saw where I thought he was outstanding and he deserved his chance.”
White has been left out of Southgate’s squad despite enjoying an impressive campaign with Premier League leaders Arsenal. The defender left the World Cup camp prematurely without playing a single minute of the tournament. At the time, the FA cited “personal reasons” but on Wednesday, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insisted White was available for selection.
Southgate insisted both White and Alexander-Arnold were behind Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and James in the pecking order.
“It’s really the same with Ben and Trent. The three guys that are there as right full-backs, we’ve got two of them going. We’re blessed with the depth of talent at that position.
“It’s the hardest position to pick, although it’s never a straight forward benchmark and it’s always changing a little bit in terms of form. But Kyle and Trips played during the World Cup, were consistent and Reece is coming in. Another top player at the back. Every position on the field we have. Want to keep that depth, really.”
Walker was included despite an ongoing police investigation into allegations that the Manchester City defender indecently exposed himself in a bar. Walker contests the charges.
“It’s a complicated situation,” Southgate said. “I’ve spoken to him at length. The fact is that as we sit here at the moment, he’s playing with his club again. There’s no conclusive evidence to rule him out at this stage so I think I have to be. Very careful about being a moral judge on things. .
“We’ve had a few long conversations and we felt that we wanted him with us, we felt it was the right thing to do. But we also know that when you’re an England international, how do you conduct yourself and what’s expected.