BURNLEY are set for a battle to keep hold of striker Charlie Austin in January, with Arsenal joining a crop of Premier League clubs clamouring to keep tabs on the current top scorer in Europe.
The 20-goal striker’s stock has risen through his club record-breaking scoring feats this season, and he is expected to be hot property once the transfer window opens in the new year.
The Gunners, who are in need of an attacking boost following the August sale of Robin van Persie, are understood to have scouted Austin for the last four games, but face competition from Liverpool, Aston Villa and Reading among others, as well as Newcastle United, who have tracked the former Swindon Town hot-shot the longest.
It is not yet clear whether any of Austin’s admirers are plotting a January bid, or whether they will wait until the summer, by which time he will only have 12 months left to run on the contact he signed under former boss Eddie Howe.
As yet there have been no attempts by Burnley to discuss a new deal.
But clubs keen on the striker could be priced out of a January move in any case, with Burnley expected to be looking to at least match the £7million fee that Jay Rodriguez commanded in his move to Southampton before considering a sale.
Austin’s value is increasing with every goal. In addition, English footballers are always in greater demand, so clubs could be tempted to bide their time until the end of the season.
But the former bricklayer, who was Howe’s first signing as Burnley boss, is paying little attention to speculation.
Instead his focus is on boosting his goal tally and, in turn, the Clarets’ points return as they look to push even higher up the Championship table.
“The lads worked hard and it was a massive result for us because after Saturday.
“With a new manager coming in everyone’s saying ‘we’ll see what happens’, but we showed our class,” said Austin, after his 83rd minute winner against Leeds United on Tuesday made him the quickest Claret to hit 20 goals in a season, beating Andy Lochhead’s long-standing record from the 1966/67 season by eight games.
“In a game like that, a derby, it was massive – just to get the goal at that time, it was really good for us.
“We’re not a team that should be down there fighting, we’re a team that should be up there in and around the play-offs,” he said.
And he admitted that while the records are a bonus, he places more importance on a positive outcome for the team.
“To score 20 goals in any season is brilliant. I’m happy I got there but I’m a team player and my goals help the team, and that’s what it did in a 1-0 win,” said Austin, who has scored in six consecutive home games.
“It’s nice to break the records but it’s all about winning for Burnley Football Club. If the records keep coming then great.”
To that end, Austin has been encouraged by the Clarets’ new-found resilience, after recording back-to-back wins and clean sheets under new boss Sean Dyche, despite having the worst defensive record in the division after a 4-0 defeat at Cardiff City, before his appointment, less than two weeks ago.
“Throughout the whole team it (defending) wasn’t the best. The lads were disappointed conceding the goals, but we knew if we just cut that out we would push on and kick on and that’s what we’re doing,” he added.