Gillingham manager Steve Evans implied that Rafa Benitez missed a trick at Newcastle by not giving Ivan Toney a chance.
The EFL boss who worked with Toney at Peterborough United shared that he thought the Geordies would have loved to see Toney playing for them in the Premier League and suggested the 23-year-old probably deserved an opportunity under Benitez.
“I make a clear comparison to Chris Wood, who I managed at Leeds United, and I think Ivan has all his attributes, but could be even better,” said Evans in an interview with The Athletic.
“I had watched Ivan and thought, ‘This kid is top Championship, or even Premier League, all day.’ The Newcastle move may have come a little bit too soon. I reckon he probably deserved a little crack under Rafa, and that isn’t knocking Rafa, but I think the Geordies would have loved Ivan had they seem him playing in the Premier League. I still think he might face them there one day.”
Toney left St James Park on a permanent basis in August 2018 in order to join Peterborough and he has been in red-hot form this season as he has scored 10 goals in 12 league outings for the League One club.
Evans admits that Toney may have joined Newcastle too early on in his career but still thinks the club should have given him a proper chance. This seems a fair opinion to hold as despite being a Magpies-owned player between 2015 and 2018, the attacker only featured four times for the senior side. Instead, the Magpies opted to loan Toney out in order for him to get experience and more often than not his temporary spells away from St James Park went extremely well. In fact, in the 2017/18 season, the campaign before the Magpies opted to cash in, Toney scored six goals in his last nine league games of the season for Scunthorpe United and looked full of confidence. While it’s true that the forward was only proving himself in the lower leagues while away from the Magpies, he could only do well against the opponents put in front of him, so what else did Newcastle want from him in order to give him more an opportunity at the club. Given that Evans seems confident that Toney could one day be good enough for the Premier League, you can’t help but feel the forward may end up being the one that got away for Newcastle.