In the latest look at potential Everton transfer targets Tom Mallows turns his attention to Burnley striker Charlie Austin, a player who has scored goals wherever he has played.
Charlie Austin’s career to date is very much a throw back to a by-gone era, to a time before young footballers were snapped up by academies as soon as they are out of nappies and pampered before they even got near the first-team squad.
For Austin has fought his way up the league ladder the hard way, coping with several setbacks along the journey.
The first of those was being rejected by local club Reading for being too small, before a knee injury also curtailed a move to Swindon Town. That meant a return to the semi-professional leagues with stints at AFC Newbury, Thatcham Town, Kintbury Rangers and his hometown side Hungerford Town.
It was at this point where Austin began to become a little disillusioned with football, before a move to Bournemouth gave him a new lease of life. There he signed for Wessex Premier League side Poole Town, scoring 34 goals in as many games in the 2008-09 season.
Away from football he was worked on his father’s building site after leaving school and he continued to do so while at Poole, before a trial with Bournemouth offered him the chance to go professional.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was keen on a deal to sign the then 20-year-old, but the club’s transfer embargo meant they were unable to make their move – another bitter pill for Austin to swallow.
He returned to the building site and continued to score goals for Poole, catching the eye of Swindon Town's then chief scout Ken Ryder in September 2009.
In an interview with Dugout Magazine in November 2012, Ryder said of Austin: "I first went to watch Charlie and I paid to get in so I didn’t alert anybody and he got four goals. So I went back the following week and he scored three or four. I then sent a scout to the next game and did not tell him exactly who he was supposed to be looking at and he rang me up before half-time and said ‘it must be the tall dark striker, he’s already scored three!’"
Austin was offered a nine-month contract with Swindon, who paid Poole a fee of just £50,000 for his services. He record at Poole stands at 48 goals in just 42 games. After banging in 10 goals in his first 11 starts he was offered an extended two and a half year deal at the County Ground.
I think it is fair to say Austin took to the football league like a duck to water, his 20 goals in 32 starts helping Swindon to the League One play-off final at Wembley. They would eventually lose the game to Millwall 1-0, but like all of his other previous disappointments, Austin would take it on the chin and move on.
He began the 2010-11 season in equally fine form and after scoring 17 goals in 27 matches; a number of Championship sides began to make enquiries in the January transfer window.
The Robins were initially reluctant to let their star striker go, but Austin’s desire to play at a higher level prompted him to hand in a transfer request and a deal with Burnley was eventually agreed, leaving Swindon after scoring 31 goals in 51 matches.
Austin had risen from the building site to the second tier of English football within two years, a remarkable rise that shows no signs of slowing. He ended the campaign as Burnley’s top scorer with 16 goals, despite only joining halfway through the season.
At the start of this season he broke Ray Pointer’s record – set in the 1958-59 season – of scoring in eight consecutive games for the Clarets. He also became the quickest player to reach 20 goals in a season for Burnley when he scored in his 17th appearance against Leeds in November.
His 23 goals in all competitions at time of writing make him the second top goalscorer in the country behind (Port Vale’s Tom Pope), a record that had understandably caught the eye of Premier League sides.
Burnley are resistant to offers for the striker but know a significant offer would be hard to resist. In terms of any interest from Everton, it certainly seems Austin has the right character and temperament to easily slot in David Moyes’ side. His unique footballing background means he has no ego and is truly grateful to be in the profession.
Strong and powerfully built, Austin is also in the mould of an old-school English centre forward, who crucially has a goalscoring instinct that simply cannot be taught.
Everton’s financial restrictions may well mean that Austin is out of reach for now, but be it with his current side Burnley or another club, there is no doubt as to where he will end up, as Ken Ryder said of the teenage brickie slotting them home for Poole Town:
"I think it goes without saying that Charlie is a player of real quality and will shock many on his rise to the very top of the game."