Ivan Toney has what it takes to be Harry Kane’s perfect England strike partner despite his off-field problems, according to Thomas Frank.
On Monday, a 24-year-old man was given a suspended four-month prison sentence and issued with a three-year ban from all football stadiums in England after admitting to racially abusing Toney on Instagram after a match last October.
The 26-year-old, who was overlooked for the World Cup by Gareth Southgate despite being the Premier League’s second-highest English goalscorer this season, is hoping to win a second call-up when the selection for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers is announced on Friday.
He was in the squad for last September’s Nations League matches against Germany and Italy but failed to make an appearance.
Since then, he impressed during Brentford’s recent 12-match unbeaten streak that has bolstered their surprise European challenge, scoring the winner in the 3-2 win against Fulham to take his season’s tally to 15 in the league. He also netted the equaliser when the Bees drew at leaders Arsenal last month.
The striker has endured a difficult period away from the pitch. He is awaiting a Football Association verdict after admitting to 262 breaches of FA gambling rules, with a lengthy suspension possible, and was the subject of a second racist attack on social media in February after his goal at the Emirates.
Yet Frank said Toney’s performances, and those of team-mate Rico Henry, have been impressive enough to warrant England breakthroughs for the pair during the Three Lions’ Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
“Kane is the number one and he will play 90 minutes,” said Frank ahead of his side’s trip to Southampton on Wednesday. “But if they’re struggling for goals I think Ivan can play alongside him.
“They have quite a few similarities. Both of them are very good link-up players. Both are very good in the box. I think the duels and longer play, Ivan has a slight advantage. In that area Kane’s all-round play is such a high level but Ivan’s is high as well.
“I think it’s fair to say Kane has shown more consistency over many years and scored more goals. But definitely Ivan can bring something.
“(In Henry) I see a player that is getting more and more consistent in his performances. I see a player that is fantastic to run in behind, to arrive in the box.
“He should have scored against Everton. I see a player that, one v one defensively, maybe these are big words, but I don’t see many full-backs better than him in the Premier League in that.”
Frank said he felt the sentence handed down over the abuse of Toney could have been stronger, but welcomed that an example had been made in football’s effort to crack down on online abuse.
He also called for a co-ordinated approach between governments and tech companies to organise a more robust response to the problem of racism directed at players on social media.
On Sunday, Saints defender Kyle Walker-Peters was targeted by abuse from a number of Instagram accounts following the team’s 0-0 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“It’s a sad comment on society,” said Frank. “It’s all about education. Because I’m a positive man, I believe that the world is becoming a little bit (of a) better place every single day.
“I hope we all can impact it. I try my best for myself, I’m not perfect but I try to be open to everything in life, and I try to teach that to my three children with my wife, and hopefully that way we can be more open-minded to everyone in the world.
“It’s government matters in different countries, and maybe the big nations need to go together. That’s the big thing. In the past, probably there was even more abuse, we just didn’t know it as much. It didn’t come out.
“Every single one that writes racial abuse on Twitter is one too many. But it’s getting even bigger, and that’s made it an even bigger problem. Definitely we need to do more to close it down on social media.”