Matt Le Tissier. Alan Shearer. Mick Channon. They are forwards that have left an indelible mark at Southampton FC. The question is: will Charlie Austin be added to that list?
It’s being referred to as one of the signings of the transfer window, when the QPR striker completed his move to St Mary’s on Saturday morning. But his story has certainly involved the occasional up and down.
Shoot takes a look at the 26-year-old and his rise from Reading reject to Premier League star.
Where did it all start for Austin?
Born in Hungerford, a small Berkshire town known for its train station, Austin was brought up into a football family. His father, Fred, was a local footballer and, while an infant, the future Premier League striker would spend Saturday after Saturday watching his dad play.
However, he did not just watch his dad, he knocked a ball about on the sidelines as well. By the age of nine, he was snapped up by Reading where he spent most of his teenage years chasing the dream of playing professional football at his local team.
It was all looking smooth for Austin, until the age of 15 when he received some shattering news. He was released by Reading for being too small, following the employment of new youth development manager Eamonn Dolan, who joined following a frustrating season as manager of Exeter City. The dream was over. Or was it?
What happened next?
Despite the heartbreak of being released as a teenager at Reading, Austin continued to adore the game that gave him so much and subsequently played for local sides Kintbury Rangers and Hungerford Town, the same side his dad had played for in his youth days.
As he aged and approached his 20s, perhaps reality began to set in as Austin doubted that the dream of playing in front of thousands of fans in packed stadia was beginning to slip away. His footballing ability began to detieriate as well, perhaps as a result of him enjoying his Friday nights too much.
However, it was at this point where his life changed as his family relocated to the South Coast and Bournemouth. Following the move to Dorset, Austin was snapped up by Poole Town. His life was transformed totally as he fell in love with the game again. His statistics weren’t bad either with him scoring 46 goals in one season – an unprecedented record for any player at the Dolphins.
It was foreseeable that a move to a professional club was on the cards. It initially looked to be at Dean Court, where he spent eight weeks under manager Eddie Howe. However, a transfer embargo denied him the opportunity to join the Cherries, and instead Danny Wilson, then manager of Swindon Town, signed the then 20-year-old. A new life was about to begin.
How did he get to this point?
Following a £50,000 fee being agreed with Poole Town, it was official. He was a Swindon Town player and the dream had became a reality. Originally he only put-pen-to-paper on a nine-month contract however, after impressing, he was offered some security when he signed for another tw0-and-a-half years just months after moving to the County Ground.
19 goals in 33 appearances for the Robins, and an imposing relationship with current Hartlepool striker Billy Paynter, sent the west country side to Wembley in the League One play-off final. However, it was not what dreams were made of, as Milwall booked their place in the Championship thanks to a first half goal by their skipper Paul Robinson.
The following season he was on the move again as he moved to Lancashire for Burnley and Eddie Howe, who had joined that month from Bournemouth, after scoring 17 goals in 27 games despite picking up a dislocated shoulder.
Initially it was a struggle with him feeling “home-sick.” But that would soon change, and a year-and-a-half later he would equal Roy Pointer’s club record of scoring in eight consecutive appearances in a fixture against Bristol City.
His next destination looked set to be in the Premier League, and in July 2013 a fee was agreed with Hull for the services of Austin; however a day later he failed his medical. Ironically, less than a month later, he passed a medical at Loftus Road and made the move to QPR, where he shone and gained promotion to the Premier League in his first season through promotion by the play-offs.
How much of a surprise was his move to the South Coast?
A little bit. Austin had only stated a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t be leaving QPR during the January transfer window, but Southampton’s interest, plus the fact that his contract is up at the end of the season, it was imperative that Tony Fernandes let Austin go to gain a fee for the Berkshire-born striker.
On a personal note, possibly it is an opportunity for him to score essential Premier League goals to maybe attract the attention of England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of the European Championships in France in the summer.
It looked as if he would make the move to the Premier League in the summer, and on deadline day there were a number of clubs wanting to pursue the quality of Austin. It looked as if he was on his way until, less than three hours before the window slammed shut; he announced via social media that he was looking forward to another season at QPR.
The main shock, however, was the transfer fee. The words coming out of QPR in the summer suggested that, if Austin was going to depart, then it would be for a substantial fee. In the end it only cost Southampton £4 million. Someone on the South Coast has certainly negotiated a good deal.
Why is he so dangerous?
Your stereotypical target man, Austin possesses all the traits for a top goalscorer. No matter what position you stand in the table, you are guaranteed goals when you have a player like Charlie Austin in your side. Despite the R’s finishing bottom of the table last season, the striker scored 18 league goals last season, the fourth highest total in the league, and the second highest total from an Englishman – only behind Harry Kane.
Super Stat: Austin has not scored a goal away from home since September 19.