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From Newcastle reject to roaring up with Brentford, now Ivan Toney is ready for top flight bow

On a summer’s night six years ago in front of 470 souls at Whitley Park in North Tyneside, Ivan Toney made his debut for Newcastle United Under 23s.

The consensus? Nowhere near first-team standard, and not ever likely to be. It was an opinion that barely altered during the course of his three years at the club.

Sportsmail was there for that 1-1 draw with Blackburn, in which the 19-year-old missed an early chance. We did not disagree with the idea of Toney being a useful player to have around the youth set-up, but little more.

Ivan Toney has taken the long route to becoming the leading striker at a Premier League club

Graham Carr was Newcastle’s chief scout at the time.

‘I saw him just along the road in the first team at Northampton at 16 years old, so I knew all about him,’ Carr tells us from his Northampton home.

‘He had something, a nice physicality for one so young, but I wasn’t banging down the door saying, “We have to sign him”.

‘But Northampton were struggling financially and I took a call from Lee Charnley (Newcastle’s managing director) asking would I pay £250,000 for Toney. It was a no-brainer. We only had Adam Armstrong coming through as a striker, and I thought it was worth a chance.

‘But I would be telling lies if I ever thought he would go on to achieve what he has done.’

The Brentford marksman has had to overcome his fair share of setbacks to reach the top flight

The Brentford marksman has had to overcome his fair share of setbacks to reach the top flight

What Toney has achieved is 82 goals in three years with Peterborough and Brentford. His tally of 31 in the Championship last season means the 25-year-old will line up on Friday night as a Premier League player when the Bees kick off the campaign at home to Arsenal.

It will be his third top-flight appearance, with the previous two cameos for Newcastle remembered only for him losing the ball in the closing stages of a 3-3 draw with Manchester United in 2016, very nearly leading to a goal.

Toney, it is said, feels let down by his lack of opportunity at Newcastle, where he was sent on loan six times.

For Carr, there is regret. ‘Look at him now, he is a colossus. I am so pleased for the lad.

‘But I look at him, and Armstrong going to Southampton for £15million this week, and I think, “They could have been playing for Newcastle now”.

Recruited by Newcastle as a teenager, Toney was shipped out on loan on six occasions

Recruited by Newcastle as a teenager, Toney was shipped out on loan on six occasions

Toney came to life during his season with the League One side Peterborough United

His displays convinced Brentford to part ways with £10m for his services

Peterborough United landed the striker for £300,000 and from there he has skyrocketed

‘Ivan just never got a chance. Steve McClaren was manager when he signed and then it was Rafa Benitez. He was more worried about winning games, like most managers are these days. A lot of young players in the Premier League have to go away to come back.

‘Ivan has certainly done that and he’s proved a lot of people wrong.’

One person Toney has proved right is Barry Fry, the director of football who took him to League One Peterborough from Newcastle for just £300,000 in 2018. He sold him to Brentford for £10m last summer, although the Magpies did have a 30 per cent sell-on clause.

‘I tried to buy him when he was down the road at Northampton but Graham Carr was always sniffing around and got him cheap,’ says Fry.

Toney bagged 31 goals for Brentford as they secured promotion

The 25-year-old has been backed to make a splash in the Premier League

He has picked up back-to-back golden boots and is expected to sparkle in the Premier League

‘But Newcastle didn’t play him, he never got a chance, they loaned him everywhere. He didn’t feel like he belonged. He needed a place, so I got in touch with Newcastle and we agreed a deal.

‘I told Ivan we loved him and wanted him here, but we were his stepping stone.

‘Brentford wanted him in January (of 2020) and he wanted to go. His Dad, who is built like a brick outhouse, stormed in to say he wanted his son to go, but we weren’t letting him.

‘We were flying at the time. If we’d got into the Championship, it’s worth £15m. We said he can go if we don’t go up, but the season was curtailed by Covid-19. We’d have p***ed it! But we always had that agreement with him.

‘There was interest from a host of top-flight clubs, including West Ham and Spurs. I was talking to the owners of Premier League sides, saying, “You’ve got to buy this guy, he’s cheap at £10m”. They were all, “Nah, nah, it’s a big jump to the Premier League”. But it ain’t.

Toney now arrives on the biggest stage of all with a point to prove with the newcomers

Toney now arrives on the biggest stage of all with a point to prove with the newcomers

‘He’ll score goals wherever he is, and he’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a goalmaker. Not only that, he’s the best defender in the team. When he comes back for corners, he heads them out 99 times out of 100.

‘He’s also a great leader in the dressing room. He won the Golden Boot with us. He won the Golden Boot with Brentford. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won the Golden Boot in the Premier League.

‘He will keep going because he’s got hunger, desire and determination.’

Those were qualities Toney possessed all along, he just needed a chance to show them.

On Friday night, he will have the biggest stage of all.

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