Last Word on Football’s EFL ones to watch series takes a look at Football League players who could earn a lucrative move in the next transfer window, whenever that may be.
Last time we profiled Eberechi Eze of QPR. Now we step down into the third tier to focus on League One’s top scorer – Peterborough’s Ivan Toney. A prolific marksman who oozes composure in front of goal, Toney has already scored 24 goals. We’ll take a look at his career so far, what makes him so good and where he could end up next season.
EFL Ones to Watch – Ivan Toney
Northampton’s Youngest Player
Now 24, Toney made his professional debut for Northampton as a 16-year-old – becoming the Cobblers’ youngest ever player in 2011. In the 2013-14 season, Toney played a huge part in helping his hometown club secure survival against the odds. They were six points from safety when Chris Wilder took over in January, but the youngster scored a vital brace in a late-season win over Dagenham. On the final day, he headed in the second goal as the Cobblers beat Oxford 3-1 to secure safety.
In his third senior season with Northampton, he scored eight goals and earned a move to Newcastle United. He made a handful of appearances in the Premier League for the Magpies, but he spent most of his three-year spell there out on loan with opportunities hard to come by in the first team.
Toney had short-term stints at Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan. However, he decided to join Peterborough permanently at the start of last season. The Northampton-born hitman scored 16 goals in his first season at Posh. That was an impressive start, but this term Toney has taken his game to a completely different level.
League One’s Top Scorer
The former Newcastle man leads the League One scoring charts after notching 24 goals so far. That’s nine more than his two closest rivals for the golden boot, Armand Gnandulliet and Ian Henderson.
What sets him apart now is his technical quality and superb temperament in front of goal. The 24-year-old very rarely snatches at chances and handles high-pressure situations with the nonchalance of a young Dimitar Berbatov. He’s also demonstrated that he isn’t afraid to calmly round goalkeepers and slot the ball into an empty net.
His most memorable goal came in last October’s meeting with Lincoln City. After latching on to a bouncing cross-field ball, Toney lifted a sensational sidefooted lob from just inside the box over the Imps ‘keeper.
League One’s top scorer recently picked up an injury in Posh’s 4-0 win over Southend (where he scored twice) and during his brief spell on the sidelines, they weren’t quite the same team without him. United lost 2-1 at Fleetwood and drew 1-1 at Burton in his absence.
Prior to that, Darren Ferguson’s side had won six games in a row, scoring four times in half of those victories. Toney himself scored eight in that spell. When he returned he scored as Posh got back to winning ways, beating Portsmouth 2-0 in a vital top of the table clash.
He’s not only blessed with outstanding technical ability, but he’s handy in the air too. Toney has scored six headed goals this season. Only Armand Gnandulliet has more. He’s also won a total of 176 aerial duels, which is the fifth most out of all frontmen in the league. The former Barnsley loanee also has excellent movement and ability to run the channels.
It seems the Peterborough man is the complete striker – he has every attribute that a manager looks for. And at the age of 24, he still has potential to become even better.
What Next for Ivan Toney?
It is worth noting that Peterborough have been willing to sell their top players in previous years when bigger clubs have come calling. Plenty of those stars have been strikers, and a lot is made of Peterborough’s success in signing and developing prolific goalscorers.
The likes of Dwight Gayle, Britt Assombalonga and Jack Marriott have all been allowed to leave London Road in recent years after shining for Posh. They join Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith, Lee Tomlin and Conor Washington in a long list of frontmen who’ve earned moves to the Championship after playing for Peterborough.
Toney would be a superb signing for any Championship club. If he played up front for Leeds, it’s hard to see how he wouldn’t score at least 20 goals even in the Championship with the amount of chances they create.
If Brentford don’t go up and they lose Ollie Watkins, then Toney could be the ideal replacement for him. He could even jump straight up to the Premier League. Surely he’d help Crystal Palace or even his former club Newcastle with their chronic lack of goals.
Ivan Toney Could Stay at Peterborough
However, Toney staying put at London Road isn’t completely off the cards. But only if they get promoted, according to manager Darren Ferguson. He told the Peterborough Telegraph: “If we go up we have a chance of keeping Ivan. But we have no chance if we don’t go up. If we are in the Championship next season I am sure the chairman, the co-owners and Barry Fry (director of football) will sit down with Ivan and make him a very good offer.
“Ivan wants to play in the Championship, but I also know he loves it here and he knows he will play every week here, but it’s a certainty there will be a long list of clubs who fancy signing him. His ability is not in question, but his attitude is also first-class. He never gives anyone any trouble. He just trains hard and plays hard.”