Brentford’s captain, Ivan Toney, will return against Nottingham Forest on Saturday after serving an eight-month suspension for violating gambling laws.
Toney’s punishment ended this week, and he celebrated on social media by tweeting a GIF of a guy lifting his arms upwards with the message “free!” at the bottom.
In addition to the suspension, the 27-year-old was fined £50,000 ($63,000) and cautioned about his future actions for 232 violations of the Football Association’s betting regulations.
Toney’s last competitive match was Brentford’s 1-0 loss to Liverpool on May 6.
But he has been permitted to practice with his teammates since September, and Bees manager Thomas Frank has stated he would give the England striker the captain’s armband to commemorate his comeback.
“Toney is booming. He’s incredibly devoted and enthusiastic. “He can’t wait,” Frank told reporters Friday.
“He will start tomorrow and he will lead the team out as Christian Norgaard is injured.”
Despite the ban’s negative impact on Brentford, who are just three points above the relegation zone, Frank praised Toney’s leadership and stated he is the Premier League’s second-best striker.
“Not only this week, the last three-and-a-half years, he is a special character in many ways,” he remarked.
“He’s a terrific guy to be around for myself, the staff, and the players. He brings energy, a grin, and happiness to the training site every day.
“On the field, he wants to win and assist the team, so it’s a huge boost. It’s like a fresh signing.
“I believe he is the Premier League’s second-best striker. Unbelievable dedication; he wants to go out there and help the team win.
Toney has been linked with both Arsenal and Chelsea throughout the January transfer window, and he has not ruled out leaving the west London club this month.
Toney told Sky Sports before of the critical match against fellow strugglers Forest: “Well, I don’t know, you can never predict when it is the right time to move elsewhere.”
“It’s clear that I’d want to play for a top club; everyone wants to play for top clubs, competing for championships and such.
“So whether it’s this January for a club to come in and pay the right money, who knows?”