Ivan Toney admits he’s ready to fight fellow frontman Will Grigg every inch of the way for a spot in the Wigan Athletic starting XI.
The on-loan Newcastle man started the season as first choice in the lone frontman role, with Grigg still finding his way back to full fitness after surgery to correct a knee problem.
After building up his match minutes off the bench and in cup combat, Grigg made his first start in the league in midweek in the impressive 3-0 victory at Charlton.
However, a watching brief at the Valley – before his second-half introduction – has only whetted Toney’s appetite to force his way back in to the team.
But rather than a viewing Grigg as a rival to take down, Toney says the duo can encourage each other to greater heights by bringing out the best in each other on and off the field.
“The manager’s got a strong squad here, and we have to make it as tough as we can for him to pick the starting side,” Toney told the Wigan Post.
“If you’re not in it, you’re not in, but you’ve got to keep going and trying your best no matter what.
“Griggy’s a great striker, and he’s been helping me, same as I’ve been helping him where I can.
“It’s great to have that competition for places, that friendly rivalry,and hopefully we can spur each other on to play even better.”
Despite his obvious disappointment at being left out for the first time, Toney was impressed with the way Latics responded to their first league defeat of the campaign at Shrewsbury last weekend.
“We knew it would be difficult bouncing back after our first defeat,” the 21-year-old acknowledged.
“It wasn’t a great game down at Shrewsbury – we played into their hands, nowhere near how well we can play, and we know that.
“But the lads showed great character and we managed to bounce back.
“It does go through your minds after a setback – whether you’re capable of bouncing back or not.
“But the lads here have been in this situation many times before, and they’ve shown they can respond in the right way.
“Charlton were riding high in the table after a good start, but all we can do is focus ourselves and we played really well on Tuesday night.
“Three great goals, solid at the back, and we really controlled the game.”
On a personal note, Toney has made a positive start to his Wigan career since arriving over the summer on a season-long loan from Rafa Benitez’s Toon.
Two important goals – against Oldham and Portsmouth – in five starts shows he knows where the goal is, and it would have been three from five had he not hit the outside of the post with a diving header last weekend at Shrewsbury.
“It was one of them – I got too much on it unfortunately,” Toney grimaced.
“If it had just glanced off my head, just a little flick, it would probably have gone in to the far corner!
“But on the whole, I feel I’ve settled in really well to life at Wigan.
“I understand the style of play, what the manager wants from me, and it’s working so far.
“We can only take it one game at a time, we can’t afford to go too far ahead of ourselves.
“Bristol Rovers on Saturday will be a tough challenge – but that goes for everybody in this league.
“We have to be ready for what they have to offer, and I’m confident we will be on the day.”