“That’s a valid inquiry,” Thomas Frank admitted, and it was not the only one he had to address as he prepared to discuss his team’s upcoming match against Nottingham Forest at home on Saturday evening. Another topic of discussion was Ivan Toney’s return after serving an eight-month suspension for betting violations. Is the Brentford forward motivated by a feeling of unfairness?
Unexpectedly, the response was not excellent, which is unusual for Frank who is typically the go-to for a great answer. He is always willing to participate, to ponder deeply, and to provide thorough responses. When he was questioned about the possibility of Toney receiving criticism from rival fans, he referenced David Beckham’s experience after the 1998 World Cup. “I hope that won’t occur, but I am aware that there will likely be some playful teasing and possibly even harsh criticism,” Frank stated.
Regarding the issue of unfair treatment, Frank acknowledged that it could give Toney an advantage. This seems like a reasonable place to begin exploring the intense emotions that have consumed the player since November 2022, and possibly even before then. This is largely due to Toney’s determination and effort.
The individual, who is 27 years old, has participated in several interviews since May of last year when he was suspended due to pleading guilty to 232 violations of the Football Association’s betting regulations between February 2017 and the present time.
Toney expressed his distress in multiple instances regarding the FA’s decision to reveal the news in November of 2022, right before Gareth Southgate announced his England team for the Qatar World Cup. The report of Toney’s alleged betting violations was initially released by a newspaper, not the FA, and he had not yet been formally charged.
Toney believed that the disclosure had hindered his chances of being chosen by Southgate for the national team, and not being selected was a harsher consequence than his eventual suspension from playing. However, he questioned why he was not suspended until May. In an interview with Steven Bartlett on The Diary of a CEO podcast, Toney expressed feeling like there was a deliberate effort to prevent him from representing England.
Toney informed Bartlett that the authorities used him as a demonstration due to his reputation. He mentioned that players in lower leagues who also violated the betting regulations received less severe consequences.
The topic of discussion is Toney’s seeming unwillingness to express remorse for his actions. When asked if he feels regretful, Frank responded, “I believe he does…it’s not as if he enjoys making mistakes.” In a football game, Toney always acknowledges his errors. However, saying sorry is a significant statement. If he could do things differently, he probably would, but he prefers to move forward.
Frank was determined to emphasize Toney’s innate talent for fully immersing himself in the present moment on the soccer field, quickly moving on from any previous play. To an outsider, it may seem like Toney is seeking revenge on the opposing Forest team, but according to Frank, it’s simply a natural response due to his competitive nature.
Frank described the player’s approach to football as a reflection of his life. He always moves forward, regardless of any positive or negative experiences or injustices in the past. Instead of playing with anger, he focuses on positivity and harnesses his energy and smiles.
Ivan excels at maintaining concentration – always moving onto the next task, shot, or challenging situation. Whether it’s a positive or negative action, he knows to move on and focus on the next one. This skill is crucial for top players.
Frank’s press conference had a higher turnout than usual and the Brentford press officer, Chris Wickham, received a chuckle during his opening remarks. “I just want to mention that we will not be addressing any questions about Ivan Toney,” he stated. Towards the end, Frank inquired about the number of attendees. “Twenty-six? Right?” he asked. “Let’s aim for 30! Come on, we can do it!”
Toney’s return was compared to Eric Cantona’s famous comeback after his kung-fu kick, and Frank mentioned another impressive return: Christian Eriksen’s for his team Brentford in February 2022. This was Eriksen’s first game since his cardiac arrest during Denmark’s first match in the European Championship in June 2021.
Frank stated that although there are differences, he sees some similarities with Christian in the sense that he was not truly “injured”. Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding his situation, Christian was able to quickly adapt and Frank anticipates the same from Ivan.
Frank noticed a similarity between Toney and Cantona in their extreme self-assurance. According to Frank, defender Charlie Goode, who is close with Ivan, shared a story about when Ivan first joined the club from Peterborough in 2020 and went four games without scoring. Charlie asked if Ivan was okay, to which Ivan responded confidently that he would break the scoring record in the Championship and score over 30 goals. And he did. Ivan has that unwavering belief in his ability to score in any situation.
There are still numerous uncomfortable aspects to the Toney controversy. During his initial interview with the FA in May 2022, he denied betting on matches. However, he later confessed to doing so, although there was a condition mentioned in his interview with Bartlett. Toney stated, “There were bets in the 232 that I couldn’t remember placing, but I was willing to own up to them in order to expedite the resolution process.”
Toney explained to Bartlett that he did not intentionally deceive, but rather he struggled to recall the specific details until they were presented to him. He also mentioned, “If I simply deny it, everything will be okay – they won’t uncover anything.”
Toney’s recent statement to Sky regarding his uncertain future with a top club was not well thought out, but it reflects his relentless ambition. He has faced challenges in maintaining his mental well-being, especially during the initial four months of his suspension where he was unable to train with Brentford. Additionally, he has also struggled with his gambling addiction.
Toney is ready for a change. According to Frank, he has the same enthusiasm for playing football as an eight-year-old. Toney will be playing against Forest and will be the captain since Christian Nørgaard is injured.
The absence of Toney would not have diminished the significance of the game: Brentford, plagued by injuries, determined to break a losing streak of five games against a Forest team ranked just one spot above them in 15th place. Additionally, Forest is dealing with the news of a potential points deduction for violating financial regulations. However, with Toney in the mix, the game becomes even more exciting.
“Ivan couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. This is exactly the kind of situation he excels in,” remarked Frank. “Initially, the game was scheduled for 12:30pm away from home. But now, it’s a home game under the bright lights at 5:30pm, which will only add to the intensity of the match. I have no doubt that Ivan will thrive in this environment.”