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Harry Kane to start against Iceland but Ivan Toney to get last shot at Euro 2024 place

Ivan Toney (right) gives Harry Kane a high-10 as he comes on as a substitute for him
Ivan Toney is battling for a place as Harry Kane's understudy in the England squad - Reuters/Carl Recine

Gareth Southgate says he will give Ivan Toney a chance to win a place in England’s squad for the European Championship but his priority is to get Harry Kane fully fit for the start of the tournament.

Kane, rather than Toney, is therefore due to start Friday’s final warm-up game against Iceland at Wembley Stadium which will finish less than three hours before the midnight deadline for Southgate to submit his 26-man squad to Uefa.

Toney was not used in the 3-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on Monday with Kane coming on after 62 minutes to replace Ollie Watkins.

Even though it was a difficult evening for Watkins, who struggled to get involved in the game, Southgate decided to turn to Kane rather than Toney, who has made just two appearances so far for England.

The Brentford striker started the 2-2 friendly against Belgium in March – and scored from the penalty spot on what was his full debut – but now faces an anxious wait to see if he makes the final cut.

Even though he impressed against Belgium, Toney’s case has not been helped by a disappointing end to the season as the 28-year-old failed to score in Brentford’s last 12 games. He returned from his eight month-ban for breaching the FA’s rules on gambling in January and scored four times in his first five Premier League games but his form dipped after that.

Asked whether he had a plan for Toney for the rest of this international camp and before the squad is trimmed from 33 players, Southgate said: “He will be involved in the game on Friday but I have got to get Harry Kane right so sometimes the priorities of what’s required and what you would like to see as well, you can’t achieve all of those objectives. Simple as that.” Southgate had already confirmed Kane will start against Iceland.

It was hardly a ringing endorsement for Toney who appears to clearly be behind Watkins in the pecking order. The Aston Villa striker earned his 11th cap against Bosnia although this season he has found it hard to continue his outstanding club form with his country.

Kane is irreplaceable, of course, and there will be relief for Southgate that he came through the game against Bosnia with no apparent problems after suffering from a troubling back issue at the end of the campaign with Bayern Munich. The England captain had not played since being substituted because of the problem during Bayern’s Champions League semi-final exit against Real Madrid on May 8.

Southgate confirmed that Kane, who scored his 63rd goal in his 90th appearance for England in the win over Bosnia, had been training with the rest of the squad this week. “He needed the first couple of days [after the squad assembled] but has trained fully since then,” he said.

It may well be that Southgate takes both Watkins and Toney as under-studies to Kane, given he can choose 26 players, but his priorities appear to lie elsewhere as he wrestles with fitness issues involving other players which may have a knock-on effect on his final selection.

The other consideration for Southgate is that despite Kane now being fit the manager has already acknowledged that back problems can re-occur and flare up at any time. “He [Kane] is quite relaxed about it,” Southgate said when he announced his provisional squad last month. “Our understanding of it is that it is something that is pretty much clear now.”

However he added: “Something like that can happen at any given moment as we all know. Back problems can just happen, travel, whatever else, but it is not something we are concerned about at this moment in time.”

Working on ‘player load’ – making sure they are all at a similar level of fitness – has preoccupied much of Southgate’s time during this camp where he has talked about the need for ‘periodisation’ when they are sometimes given individual training programmes after what has been a demanding campaign with more debate than ever about the concerns over injury and player ‘burn-out’.

For example John Stones and Bukayo Saka have trained separately for the first part of this week but both, it is hoped, will feature against Iceland before the squad flies to Germany on June 10.

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