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Ivan Toney believes he was made an example of as a high-profile Premier League player. The Brentford striker was banned for eight months in May after admitting 232 breaches of the Football Association’s betting rules. Speaking to Steven Bartlett on The Diary of a CEO podcast, Toney claimed that his punishment was disproportionate compared to what previous, lower-level players had been given for similar offences. “I feel so, yeah,” he said when asked if the FA had looked to make an example of him. “I don’t think it’s right, no. We actually did look at some cases that were somewhat similar or worse and their punishment wasn’t how mine is. The fact that I’m playing in the Premier League doing well, sniffing round England, it’s kind of like, ‘Right, this is our chance to punish him’.” Toney also felt the timing of the allegations being made public was linked to him being left out of the England squad for last year’s World Cup. He said: “I guess it comes down to the allegations but personally I feel it was a bit of a questionable time when they decided to bring it all out and then when they actually dealt with the situation come the end of the season. “The biggest punishment for me was missing out on playing at the World Cup. I felt more hurt and down around that time, like somebody’s out to get me to stop me from playing for England. That was the lowest point.” Toney admitted he initially denied betting on football when confronted by the FA before co-operating with the investigation, although he insisted he does not remember placing bets on his own team to lose.
“In the 232 breaches there were some bets I don’t recall making but I was willing to take responsibility just to get the process all over and done with because having that hovering over me and trying to concentrate on my career is far from the best feeling,” he said. The 27-year-old also claimed that using someone else to place bets for him was to hide how he was spending his money from his parents rather than from the authorities. Toney’s suspension was shorter than it could have been, with the FA taking into account his diagnosis as a gambling addict. “You never think of the negatives,” he said. “Being on the money I was on, it was like, ‘It’s fine, I’ll get it back at the back end of the month’. It was just waiting for pay day. “My stubbornness comes into play and it was kind of like, ‘No, I’m fine, I can stop when I want to stop’. You don’t allow yourself to believe it. I feel like it’s 50-50. You could have stopped but the thrill is what keeps you going.” Toney, who has three young children, insisted he has now stopped gambling, saying: “I think it’s being in the public eye. If I was going into these places (betting shops), I think it’s more the embarrassment. I wouldn’t allow myself. “You take a back seat and look at all the money you’ve lost and what it could have gone on, and especially now having people to provide for. I see that as being naive.” Toney is banned until January 16 and he is not allowed to train with his team-mates or spend time at Brentford until September 17.
“I feel like the hard part is now because right now I’d be playing football matches and I can’t even be around the players and at the football ground,” he said. “If I wasn’t as strong as I was in my head, that would break some people. We talk about mental health, what’s that doing to a player that’s not allowed in the environment? How is that going to help them?” Toney thanked Brentford boss Thomas Frank and England manager Gareth Southgate for their support and vowed to come back stronger. He added: “Not that I need to prove anybody wrong but there’s a lot of haters and doubters out there thinking, ‘He ain’t going to be the same when he comes back’. “Actually they’re right, I’m going to be a different man, I’m going to be even better than that guy that scored those goals before. I’m built different, my mentality’s different. “I want to be playing for England and scoring goals. I want to be the main man wherever I go. I know we’ve got Harry Kane, who is probably one of the best strikers in the world if not the best, and that’s what I’m up against, so I need to get to that level.
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