Jonathan Woodgate insists record-breaking Brentford hitman Ivan Toney is not as good as “absolutely outstanding” Bournemouth striker Dominic Solanke.
In-form Toney is arguably the most sought-after frontman outside the Premier League after netting a remarkable 31 Sky Bet Championship goals for the Bees this term, while Cherries forward Solanke registered a more modest total of 15.
The rival centre-forwards are set to face off when their clubs meet in the play-offs, beginning with Monday evening’s semi-final first leg at the Vitality Stadium.
While statistics suggest otherwise, Cherries boss Woodgate believes one-time England international Solanke is the superior player, pointing to the number of penalties converted by Toney to explain the gulf in goals scored.
Asked if the Brentford player was the best striker outside the Premier League, Woodgate replied: “Better than Dominic Solanke? You think he’s better than Dominic Solanke? I don’t think he is.
“Nine penalties; if Dom had taken our penalties, he would be on the same amount. I think Dom is better than Toney.
“Listen, I do like Toney but I think Dominic Solanke is absolutely outstanding.”
Bournemouth are seeking an immediate return to the Premier League following last year’s relegation, while Brentford were beaten in the 2020 play-off final and have not featured in the top flight for 74 years.
The Bees’ third-placed finish owed a lot to Toney, whose impressive haul following last summer’s arrival from Peterborough for an initial £5million is the most goals scored by a single player in a Championship season, surpassing the 30 Glenn Murray registered for Crystal Palace in 2012-13.
Woodgate is determined to deny 25-year-old Toney a dream trip to Wembley but feels the opposition’s prized asset is destined for the Premier League regardless of the outcome of the play-offs.
“I think there will be definitely teams sniffing around him,” said Woodgate.
“Last year, no one (in the top flight) really took a chance on him when he was at Peterborough. I thought, when I watched him, he was always a really, really good centre-forward.
“I am sure Premier League teams will take him now, even if they don’t go up.”
Following a difficult start to life on the south coast, Solanke has finally found his shooting boots, albeit in a lower division.
The 23-year-old, who was capped by his country in 2017, cost a reported £19m from Liverpool in January 2019 but struck just three times in 42 top-flight appearances for the Dorset club before relegation last summer.
Having expressed his high opinion of both Toney and Solanke, Woodgate was unsure whether he would be able to keep hold of the latter should promotion not be achieved.
“I won’t be making those decisions. I haven’t got a clue on that one,” he said.