Ivan Toney says he will not let his opportunity with England pass him by with the World Cup squad less than two months away from being selected.
The Brentford striker has been handed his maiden call-up by Gareth Southgate ahead of Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany this month.
Toney has never featured for the England youth teams, but since Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League, has caught the eye of the England manager.
It is the realisation of a lifelong dream for the striker, who is determined to take the opportunity he now has with the opportunity to go to the World Cup in Qatar on the horizon.
England’s 28-man squad in full to face Italy and Germany
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse.
Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ivan Toney.
“I never doubted it. I have full confidence in myself, I feel like I have to keep working hard and it makes it that much sweeter when you get the chance,” Toney told a press conference on Tuesday.
“I never played for any of the ages groups, I’ve gone straight into the senior squad. It’s a great achievement, I’m very proud and I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way.
“This is my opportunity now. I’m excited and confident for it and I’m very hungry. I’ve been working for this moment and it’s here now. I’m not going to let it go by me. I’m going to take it with both hands and make the most of the opportunity I have.
“There’s never pressure – I don’t think I’ve ever felt pressure in my career up to date. It’s more excitement and it’s such a privilege to be playing alongside such quality players and represent my country. I’ll go with the flow and hopefully make the most of it.
“It’s a massive opportunity to get myself on the plane, but we’ve got to go day by day. Hopefully I’ll get some minutes with the next two games that we have and take my chance. Hopefully it’s enough to see me into the squad.”
When asked what Southgate has told him so far, Toney revealed: “Just be yourself, you’re here for a reason and you’re not here to make up the numbers. Just do what’s got you here and be yourself.
“They’re the main things he’s told me to do so I’m sure I’ll do that and hopefully it’s enough to keep me in the squad for the World Cup.”
Toney has previously discussed the sacrifices his family have made for his football career, and revealed how he told them about his England call-up.
“From the early stages, my sister used to take me to football and do her uni work while she was waiting for me to take me home while my mum and dad were working,” he said.
“My mum has played a massive part, sometimes making sure I’m eating and not herself. She played her part massively, as did my dad in taking me all over the country, whether it’s trials here or there, he came to support me at every game, as did my other sister.
“Everybody has played a part so it’s a bit sweeter when I’m sitting here now in an England top, representing the country. It’s not just me that’s done this, everybody around me has played a part and I can’t thank them enough.
“I was driving to training and the Brentford gaffer called me. I was running a bit late so I thought he was calling about my timekeeping. Then he said ‘I’ve the privilege to tell you you’ve been called up to the senior England squad’, and I never had nothing to say.
“I was driving and I wouldn’t say I zoned out because that wouldn’t be the best thing to do, but I was thinking ‘wow, I’m actually going to play with the England senior squad’. It didn’t really register, I was answering the gaffer’s questions but it still wasn’t going in.
“I rang my parents straight away, we have a family group chat, I video called everybody and broke the news. They were screaming for about 20 minutes, my Dad was beeping his horn wherever he was, they must’ve thought he was going crazy.
“It was a massive moment for my whole family and such a big achievement to be representing my country.”
Jordan Henderson has joined the England squad after recovering from injury. The Liverpool captain arrived at St George’s Park on Monday evening and replaces Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who will undergo shoulder surgery.
Toney: Hopefully one day I’ll be in Haaland, Jesus’ shoes
Toney, asked if he thinks he’ll ever score as many goals as the likes of Erling Haaland and Gabriel Jesus, suggested that he’d like to one day be in their shoes with the service they are receiving at Manchester City and Arsenal respectively.
“It’s easy to say if I was in their team I’d be scoring goals. But when you play in teams like them they dominate possession more, so there are more opportunities to score goals.
“But you still have to put it in the back of the net. Until I’m there, we’ll have to see. Until then, I’m not too sure. They do have quality players assisting them, so hopefully one day I’ll be in their shoes and have that opportunity to score goals like Haaland and Jesus are.”
Grealish: Southgate criticism ‘very harsh’
Jack Grealish believes criticism of Southgate in the summer was “very harsh” given the success he has enjoyed during this time as England manager.
While the nation is still searching for a first senior men’s trophy since 1966, the Three Lions have never been closer to matching Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes than the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England on a run to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago that was as surprising as it was unforgettable, before last summer bringing the country to within a penalty shootout of Euro 2020 glory.
But the former defender has never strayed far from criticism and came under fire after a challenging four-game Nations League slog in June ended with a 4-0 Molineux mauling by unfancied Hungary.
“I think it was harsh,” fan favourite Grealish said of the reaction to Southgate.
“We reached the final last year and then the Hungary game (we lost 1-0) at the start of the last camp, I think before that the last time we’d lost a game over 90 minutes was maybe Belgium in November 2020 or something.
“So, I think it is very harsh, especially (as you saw at) the World Cup and the Euros of how well the team done and the manager himself.
“I thought it was obviously harsh but sometimes that’s what you get if you’re English. I’ve certainly had my fair share!”
Capello: Are England mentally strong enough to win World Cup?
Meanwhile, Fabio Capello has spoken to Sky Sports, giving his views on Southgate as well as England’s chances at the World Cup.
The former England boss has questioned whether England’s players are strong enough mentally to lift the trophy.
“I’m really interested to see who comes out on top at the World Cup in Qatar,” he told Sky Sports.
“As a former England coach when I coached the team in September, October and November, we were ready to face the best sides in the world.
“In March and April, it was so-so because the physical level was dropping and we then found it very tough in June.
“I want to test my theory that England are a great side in this period of the year, so besides having talented players and a top coach, can they really be competitive and win a major tournament such as the World Cup?”
He added: “You said Southgate is under pressure. The only doubt that I have is in the players’ heads.
“The English players feel a sense of responsibility. They might get close to success and then feel that sense of responsibility as a weight on their shoulders.
“If we look at the second half of the [Euros] final against Italy after scoring, they stopped playing and what amazed me was they were already time wasting on 30 minutes. They were time wasting and didn’t want to play anymore, so they didn’t. That seems to be a mental problem. It’s either a physical or mental problem.
“That is what we’ll find out after the World Cup in Qatar.”
England’s World Cup warm-up fixtures
England are preparing for this month’s Nations League fixtures. The Three Lions face Italy away on Friday September 23 at 7.45pm, before hosting Germany on Monday September 26 at 7.45pm.
England’s World Cup group B fixtures
November 21: Iran (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 1pm
November 25: USA (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor) – kick-off 7pm
November 29: Wales (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 7pm
Pick your England starting XI for World Cup 2022
Gareth Southgate has unveiled his final pre-World Cup England squad – but who would make your starting XI?
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