Brentford striker Ivan Toney has said he feels “free” following the end of his eight-month ban from football.
Toney, 27, is now able to play for the Bees after a suspension for breaking Football Association gambling rules.
The forward has scored 32 goals in 64 Premier League games since joining Brentford in 2020 and is eager to build on his tally this season.
“It feels like we lost wi-fi connection but we’re back connected again and reloaded,” Toney told Sky Sports.
“I feel like a free man. It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I have a target of how many goals I want to get,” he added.
Toney has not played a competitive match since 6 May 2023, having served an eight-month ban for 232 breaches of the Football Association’s betting rules.
He was allowed to return to training with Brentford in September but the ban prohibited from playing until 17 January.
Toney marked his return on Wednesday morning with a social media post saying he was “free”.
Toney, who has been linked with transfer interest from Arsenal and Chelsea, is set to feature when Brentford face Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.
“It’s obvious I’d like to play for a top club, everybody wants to play for the top clubs, fighting for titles and these kinds of things.
“So whether it’s this January for a club to come in and pay the right money, who knows?”
In his build-up to returning to competitive action, Toney scored a hat-trick for Brentford’s B team in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Southampton Under-23s, and last Saturday scored a Panenka penalty in a friendly against Danish side Brondby.
“I’ve been training well and playing well in behind closed doors. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone but myself. I want to show I can do it,” the striker said.
“It was the ‘feel sorry for yourself’ moment for so long, but I think I’ve chosen the right way by working hard.”
Among those looking forward to the return of the one-time England international is Bees boss Thomas Frank, who said he would have played Toney in their FA Cup replay at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday night had it taken place 24 hours later when the ban lifted.
“It’s like signing a Premier League striker who can score 20 goals, because he’s proved it,” said Frank of Toney’s return.
“Every team would be happy to sign a quality player like him. Ivan is a top player but he’s also very good at making the whole team better.”
Toney also spoke of his gambling addiction, saying he is feeling better and “focused on doing the right thing”.
“I’m sorted out now so hopefully, I will focus on doing the right thing going forward,” Toney said.
“There’s no urge to do any of that rubbish, it’s all good.”