Brentford and England striker Ivan Toney says missing the World Cup was a bigger blow than the eight-month ban he is serving for breaking betting rules.
Toney, who admitted to 232 breaches of Football Association regulations, was charged in November and missed out on a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said Toney was left out of Southgate’s squad on “footballing grounds”.
Toney was the Premier League’s third-highest scorer last season with 20 goals and helped Brentford to a ninth-place finish.
The 27-year-old said it was painful to miss out on the tournament in Qatar, where England reached the quarter-finals.
“Even though I’m missing eight months of football, I feel like that was a bigger punishment, missing out on the World Cup, everybody’s dream,” he told the Kick Game YouTube channel.
“I believe in myself and hopefully I’ll be at the next one.”
Toney won his first England cap as a substitute in the 2-0 Euro 2024 qualifying win over Ukraine in March, having received his first call-up to Southgate’s squad last September.
The striker, who was given a reduced ban because of a diagnosed gambling addiction, can return to training with Brentford in mid-September but cannot play again until January.
Brentford have vowed to help Toney while England manager Gareth Southgate said it was important to support the player during his time away from the game.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me but I’m just going to focus on when I come back training,” said Toney.
“I’m going to be a different animal when I come back. Playing in the league, it’s going to be frightening.”