EDDIE Howe insists Charlie Austin has lived up to the expectations he had of the striker in his first full season in the Championship.
The former Swindon Town hotshot has stormed to 17 goals, despite missing a month of the season with injury.
Austin suffered a false start to his Burnley career after dislocating his shoulder in a training ground incident at the end of his first month with the club.
But the 22-year-old worked hard during the summer to prove he was worth the £1.2million the Clarets spent on him less than 16 months ago.
It is just three-and-a-half years since Austin earned professional status after being plucked from non-league Poole Town.
But Howe admitted he never doubted Austin’s ability to make the swift step up from League One, and handle the price tag in the process.
“I’m absolutely delighted with him,” said the Burnley boss.
“I think there was an expectation coming with a reasonable transfer fee and Charlie got injured unfortunately straight away last year so there was that pressure on him that built for six months because no-one had seen him.
“I think he adjusted really well. He had a really good start to the season. He had a big disappointment with the injury again and it took him a little bit of time just to get his confidence back after that injury, which I think is only natural.
“But then he came back with a real bang.”
Austin announced his recovery from a third shoulder dislocation in 14 months with a goal on the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign, in the 2-2 draw at home to Watford.
He went on to score four in the next five games.
Austin suffered two six-game goal droughts either side of his injury.
But he is ending the season strongly, picking up where 21-goal top scorer Jay Rodriguez left off with a ratio of six goals in his last six games - including a career- first hat-trick in the 5-1 win at Portsmouth in March.
And Howe believes Austin, who has struck up impressive partnerships with both Rodriguez and summer signing Danny Ings this term, can kick on again next year.
“The key thing with Charlie is his overall game has improved dramatically in the year, which is a huge bonus for us and for him going forward,” said the Burnley boss.
“The challenge is always to improve every aspect of your game and I think he’s done that. He’s shown a great attitude, and I think the best of him is in front of him.”