England manager Gareth Southgate has offered strong backing to banned striker Ivan Toney and questioned why he isn't allowed to train with his club Brentford.
Toney, who made his Three Lions debut against Ukraine in March, has been banned for football for eight months after breaking Football Association betting rules.
The 27-year-old was also fined £50,000 for the 232 breaches and won't be able to play again until January 17 next year. Toney cannot return to training with Brentford until four months before the ban ends - meaning he must train alone until September.
He also cannot move outside England on loan to continue playing.
Southgate, speaking after announcing his squad for next month's Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, said he had been in touch with Toney and had offered his support.
Southgate said as cited by Sports Central: 'I have spoken with him. I don't know whether that's allowed by the way but, if it isn't, they can ban me and not add to his. 'The ban is the ban, it is what it is. I think he recognised and accepted the punishment. 'What bothers me is that we have got to look after people and he is injured at the moment - what does he do about getting fit?
He added: 'How do we give him some structure over the next few months so that he can develop himself or be a better person at the end of it, or have experiences that he might not have experienced? 'I don't like the idea that we just leave somebody, that they're not allowed to be part of the football community. 'I don't think that's how we should work, I don't think that's how the best rehabilitation programmes would work. 'But he knows we picked him because we felt that until there was a charge, he should be allowed to play. When he comes back, if he plays well, we will pick him. 'It won't have any bearing but I think he will have additional motivation through what he is experiencing and he is a resilient guy with great character and we are here to support him.'
Although Toney will miss half of next season, Southgate left the door open for a place in the England squad for the European Championship in Germany.
He added: 'Yes, without a doubt. It is not ideal because he is going to miss a large chunk of the season and you don't know after that sort of period out how physically he is going to adapt and how he is going to play. 'But it is possible for him, there will still be time and he has impressed us with the way he's played. 'I like his personality, I like his belief and the way he goes about his job, so everything is still possible for him.'
Southgate called Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson into his squad in Toney's absence as back-up to captain Harry Kane. Manchester United's Marcus Rashford is another possible centre forward alternative.
Mail Sport revealed last week that Brentford plan to open contract talks with Toney at the end of the season despite the betting ban.
The club acknowledge they are unlikely to get too many offers in the £50million bracket they want for Toney this summer.
The Bees want to show their support for a player who has scored 21 times this season, having powered them into the Premier League from the Championship in 2020-21.
Toney has two years left on the £20,000-a-week contract he signed when making a £10m move from Peterborough United three years ago.
He received a modest pay-rise when Brentford won promotion to the Premier League a year later but his goalscoring record means he could command £150,000-a-week wages elsewhere.
To play Malta on June 16 and North Macedonia on June 19 in Euro 2014 qualifiers
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), James Maddison (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United).