Ivan Toney opens up on Newcastle United 'eye-opener'

Ivan Toney has opened up about his exit at Newcastle United – and his feelings towards Rafa Benitez.

Toney, called up by England last week for the first time, was sold to Peterborough United four years ago during Rafa Benitez’s time in charge after a series of loan spells away from the club.

The striker went on to prosper at London Road – and he moved to Brentford in 2020.

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Toney has already scored five goals this season – one behind, Aleksandar Mitrovic, another player sold by Benitez – and the 26-year-old has spoken about his experience at United ahead of Friday’s Nations League fixture against Italy in Milan.

Asked if the rejection motivated him, Toney said: “That was a factor that did come into play.

“I felt like ‘you got rid of me, I’m going to show you what I’m capable of when I get the chance, whether it’s a Premier League side – or a League One side’.

“Leaving Newcastle, when I went to Peterborough, was an eye-opener.

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England's Ivan Toney during a press conference at St. George's Park, Burton-on-Trent.

“That was a case of ‘right, I have to turn my game around to get back up, I might see myself as a Premier League player, but I’m a League One player now, I have got to keep fighting and working hard’. And I certainly did that

“Honestly, I didn’t have that belief when I went out on loan, but, with my family behind me, I always made sure I had some sort of belief.

“You would be going on loan, but, really, you wanted to be playing for your parent club, Newcastle, in the Premier League.

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“Being young and dumb, I’d say (that), and not realising what you go on loan for is to get experience in men’s football.

"You are sulking away, but, looking back, now you realise all the benefits of going on loan.

“So when I have been going on loan, with my parents behind me, making sure I am 100% in training and matches, it’s helped me become the player I am today.

“But I feel, looking back, if I was a Newcastle manager looking at a 20-year-old Ivan Toney, would I have taken him? Probably not.

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“There are no hard feelings, you just have got to get on with it. They have done what they had to do. They felt I wasn’t good enough, so it was up to me to pick myself up and go again.”

Benitez – who left Newcastle in the summer of 2019 after failing to agree a new contract with then-owner Mike Ashley – claimed that he hadn’t been told that Toney was an “option” for him.

“I didn’t meet Ivan Toney at any time (at Newcastle),” said Benitez last year. “I didn’t coach him any day, so I didn’t talk with him when I was there, because he was on loan.

"All the reports that I had when I was asking for players for the first team, nobody was telling me that he was an option, and he was on loan – and they sold him.”

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Meanwhile, United head coach Eddie Howe last week labelled Toney an “outstanding” player.

"He's had to work his way back up – and he's done incredibly well,” said Howe.