Ivan Toney interview: Brentford's Championship record-breaker out to make more history

Ivan Toney on breaking the Championship scoring record, Brentford's promotion chances and how Thomas Frank's warm demeanour has helped him succeed; Watch the Championship play-off final between Brentford and Swansea on Saturday May 29, live on Sky Sports Football from 2pm; Kick-off 3pm.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney says his side can't afford to let the magnitude of the occasion affect them in their Championship play-off final against Swansea.

"In my head, I was saying 'tackle Sergi if he takes it off you!"

Ivan Toney is in a jovial mood as he re-lives the 3-1 final day win over Bristol City and for good reason. In any other season, with play-offs secured, it would have been a dead rubber for Brentford; a chance for Thomas Frank to hand some minutes to fringe players or to blood some youngsters.

But this season's trip to Ashton Gate presented the 25-year-old with his last opportunity to make history, by breaking Glenn Murray's record of the most Championship goals scored in a season. With just two in the eight games leading up to the finale, it was touch-and-go as to whether he would do it, but with 57 minutes on the clock, he did what he does best and clinically swept home from close range.

Brentford's Ivan Toney celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game
Image: Toney broke the Championship scoring record against Bristol City on the final day of the regular season

"When the ball broke, it was about composure, making sure the goalkeeper didn't get there first and making sure Sergi [Canos] didn't get there second!" the striker tells Sky Sports.

"But he left it for me and I tapped it in. You could see what it meant, not just to myself but to all of the boys, they all came over and celebrated. It was a proud moment for me.

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"I always believed I would get there because the team keeps creating chances and I think it was going to come to a point where, if I didn't score against Watford [in the previous game], I probably would have taken throw-ins, corners, goal-kicks to make sure I got on the end of them!

"I knew I would make an impact. Maybe not as big as the one I have made, but I knew I would make an impact. I believe in myself and I know I'm capable of doing certain things that nobody can really do, I would say. This sounds big-headed but I knew I would get an opportunity to break the record and it was up to me to take it and I did that."

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Ivan Toney
Image: Toney's record-breaking 31-goal haul earned him the Sky Bet Championship Golden Boot award

It was a moment that rounded off a near-faultless first Championship campaign for Toney, who added the second tier Golden Boot award to the League One award he won after scoring 24 goals for Peterborough last season.

Given that impact, it is easy to forget that he drew a blank in his first four games in red and white in all competitions, before his first goal in a 1-1 draw with Millwall on September 26.

"Coming to this club, you have to be fit because the way the manager wants everybody playing is on the front foot, pressing, running in behind," he reflects. "I feel like the first two or three games I was off it, I'm not going to lie - a bit behind the pace.

"There would be chances I wasn't ready for because I was tired from doing runs before. Now, and throughout the season, I feel like I'm the fittest I have been throughout my whole career and I have just been getting fitter and fitter.

It was against Millwall on September 26 that Ivan Toney struck his first goal in a Brentford shirt
Image: It was against Millwall on September 26 that he struck his first goal in a Brentford shirt

"The coaching staff and everybody here has helped me through that, putting on extra sessions, making sure I'm doing this right, I'm doing that right and it has helped massively, hence the goals. It is a fact of, when the next chance comes your way, are you ready for it? The fitness helps because yes, I'm ready for it and I'll put it in the back of the goal."

He also highlights his relationship with head coach Frank as a crucial factor in breaking down early mental barriers.

"The first two games, I missed some easy chances, which normally I would put in the back of the net and I beat myself up about it after the game. The manager would see that and say, 'We know what you are capable of. Just relax, be yourself and when the next chance comes, take it.'

"I think that helps because if you are not ready for the next chance, nine times of out 10, you aren't going to score it. I got the penalty against Millwall and from then I never looked back.

The 25-year-old credits head coach Thomas Frank for helping him to break down some early barriers
Image: The 25-year-old credits head coach Thomas Frank for helping him to break down some early barriers

"He has just kept me focused. He is always saying, 'Be confident, but be humble' and I feel like I have done that throughout the season. I step across the white line and think I'm going to score today. That's the confident part, being humble is not bragging about it, not telling anyone, but in your head, knowing you are going to do that.

"He's like a friend, not just to me, but to others. You see him around and he's talking to people, asking how their families are. He does genuinely care and it's good to have a manager like that."

The 31 goals Toney chalked up throughout the regular season, naturally, played an integral part in Brentford reaching the Championship play-offs for a second straight season, following their defeat to west London neighbours Fulham last August.

Ivan Toney slate 2020/21 3:24
Take a look at the best goals from Ivan Toney's record-breaking season in the Sky Bet Championship

On Saturday, they face Swansea in their second successive play-off final, following a thrilling second leg comeback against Bournemouth at the Brentford Community Stadium and he believes the manner of the victory bodes well for the trip to Wembley.

"For the first leg, it was a bit of a downer, losing 1-0, but I think the lads showed great character in not getting down too much because the job wasn't done," he says.

"We still had a chance to get back into it and we did that. The way we came back was fantastic and I feel like it gives us a strong mentality going into the final.

Image: He scored the first goal in Brentford's 3-1 second leg win over Bournemouth

"I would never have been the same game without the fans. The fans made the game, they made us go through to the final. Every challenge, they were behind us. Every run, they were behind us. Little things people wouldn't really realise until they are on the pitch. Our fans make a massive difference. It's good to have them back."

While he speaks words of a realist - "It's almost a pointless thing if I break the record and we don't get promoted" - this is a man who can't help but suggest it is a case of 'when' not 'if' Brentford reach the top flight.

"Last year, I had a similar feeling to how the lads felt," he concludes. "They lost in the play-off final but Peterborough just missed out on play-offs due to how the season ended, so the pain they felt, I kind of felt as well.

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Highlights of the Championship play-off semi-final 2nd leg between Brentford and Bournemouth

"I think it could work on our side. I feel like other players in the squad have been there, they know the feeling and they don't want to feel that again, clearly. Knowing how it feels losing at Wembley, nobody will want it again.

"Everyone is excited to get going - Saturday can't come quick enough. Everyone is fit and hungry, with the winning mentality we've had for the last couple of games, bar the first leg at Bournemouth. We all know it's one big game. Anybody can win but we have got to stick to our game plan and stick to what we do best.

"Once we get promoted, I think it will all sink in. I can look back at the season we've had and think that was a season where I did my job and it was a good one to look back on."

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