In Focus: Toney's hat-trick heroics bolster England hopes
Ivan Toney continued his superb start to the season with a sensational hat-trick in Brentford’s 5-2 win over Leeds on Saturday.
The 26-year-old striker's treble, which included a stunning free-kick and an impressive long-range finish, took his tally this season to five goals in six Premier League games.
With not many English attackers bettering that form, calls for Toney to be included in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad have intensified.
Ahead of the Bees’ trip to Southampton at the weekend, we turn the spotlight on their star No9.
Where he belongs
Toney’s pedigree in the lower divisions has been undisputed for some time after his 24-goal haul for Peterborough in League One in 2019-20 was followed by 31 for Brentford in the Championship.
But as is the case with many strikers, doubts remained over whether he could replicate that form in England’s top division following the Bees' promotion in 2021.
That was perhaps a particular concern in Toney's case, who had already failed to make the grade at Newcastle as a youngster.
But scoring 12 times in his maiden Premier League campaign put those questions to bed, while his tally this term proves it is where he belongs.
It had never been a doubt shared by a confident Toney, who has made no secret of his lofty aims for the rest of the campaign.
He said: "I've set myself a target of 30 goals this season. Let's see where I end up. It's achievable. Why not?"
Lauded for Leeds display
While not the first Premier League hat-trick of his career, Toney’s performance against Leeds may have been his best since making the step up.
The domineering frontman dispatched a cool penalty to put his side 1-0 up having won the spot-kick himself.
And the way he doubled Brentford’s lead just before half-time was simply glorious as he arrowed a free-kick into the top corner past a helpless Illan Meslier.
But the effort to complete his hat-trick was the one Toney named as his favourite of the three.
With the goalkeeper off his line, he showed the composure to skip past a handful of defenders before delightfully chipping the ball home from 25 yards out.
A nightmare opponent
With powerful running and pace to burn backed up by natural finishing ability, Toney is proving a tricky opponent for any Premier League defender.
Speaking after the Leeds win, Bees boss Thomas Frank said: "It’s a nightmare to play against him.
"Also, I have said many times he is the best penalty taker in the world — and hopefully I won't get bored saying it.
"The free-kick? Wow! I said to him he has to practice if he wants to take them. It was a classic Ivan goal, fantastic technique.
"The last one is just ridiculous, to dink it over the keeper and pull that finish out of the hat. Yeah, good."
Lion in wait?
With the Northampton native now regularly showcasing the attributes of a top centre forward, calls for a maiden international call are an increasingly prominent talking point.
It is a justified argument as well, with only Harry Kane (22) and Tammy Abraham (18) bettering Toney’s tally of 17 league goals among English players since the start of last season.
That is ahead of the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ollie Watkins, both of whom have been involved ahead of Toney in Three Lions squads during that period.
The striker’s proven ability from dead-ball situations may just set him apart from that competition, though.
Since Toney's first Premier League appearance for Brentford, only Jorginho (seven) has converted more penalties than the six he has managed.
With a World Cup on the horizon and England's historic struggles from the spot in mind, his club manager thinks that should make Toney a shoo-in for Southgate.
Frank added: "Off the top of my head, looking at strikers on form, Kane is No1 but there is not a better striker after him on form.
"I don’t see a better one. Plus England have been in a few penalty shootouts and if they want to win one they need to pick Ivan."
The rise will continue
If Toney is handed an England debut, it would mark yet another chapter of a fairytale journey up the football ladder.
Plucked from League Two Northampton by Newcastle in 2015, Toney was forced to battle back to the top after his departure three years later.
Since then, it has been a consistent upward trajectory for the forward — regularly performing as one of the best players in whichever league he was in.
And despite now competing against some of the world’s most talented players, Toney remains a standout in England’s elite league on current form.
Do not bet against international football soon becoming the latest extraordinary height he rises to.