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Ex-brickie laying the goal trail at Burnley
SEVEN goals this season, 17 in his first full Championship campaign and a ratio that now reads 61 goals in 122 games as a professional, Charlie Austin is proving himself to be the lean, mean scoring machine that Eddie Howe felt he was destined to be.
The Hungerford-born hotshot first came to the Burnley boss’s attention through the sports pages of his local newspaper - our sister paper, the Bournemouth Echo - when he was in charge of the Cherries.
Austin’s name featured prominently in the Poole Town reports, such was the regularity of the part-time bricklayer’s goals.
Howe couldn’t help but sit up and take notice.
“I remember picking up the local paper in Bournemouth and seeing him score four and five every week for Poole Town and you think you've got to go and watch this kid – he's definitely got something about him,” recalled the Burnley boss.
A transfer embargo at Bournemouth rendered Howe unable to act on his instincts and pitch for the poacher.
But when he claimed the hot-seat at Burnley, he wasted no time in pinpointing Austin as his prime target, and securing him as his first signing, believing the striker could live up to the reputation he established in the Wessex League and lower down the Football League in the Championship.
Already this season, ahead of tonight’s trip to Leicester City, he is averaging a goal a game.
“A lot of people say if you score goals you'll score goals at any level,” said Howe.
“Charlie seems to be one of those players.
“He's just carried that on through the levels.
“I think his all-round game has improved in terms of his hold-up play, his link play. His fitness, in terms of day-to-day training and doing all the things that you need to do as a professional footballer to stay ahead of the game has come on massively.
“But I don't think his game around the box has changed too much.
“He was lethal!
“I watched him play for Poole Town against my Bournemouth team one pre-season and he stuck a header in at the back post.
“He hasn't changed in that respect at all. I think his play around the box is the same now, and hopefully it won't change.
“He's got that hunger to want to score more. Hopefully he can stay fit and do that for us.”
But his goal tally might suggest he has a selfish streak, Howe knows a key element to Austin’s game is teamwork.
“He wants the team to win and puts the team ahead of himself and his goalscoring record, which I think is so important,” said the Burnley boss.
“And I think when Charlie scores all the lads are pleased for him because he’s very much like Pato in the respect that he’ll work very hard for the team, do his bit from set plays, come back and help us defend.
“But he’s there when we need him in the box.
“He's very honest and I think that goes back to his grounding and where he's come from.”
Howe added: “I think together with Martin Paterson and Danny Ings and Sam Vokes – without forgetting anybody – they're all massive players for us.
“Charlie had a great season last year with Jay Rodriguez – scoring 17 goals in his first full season – so hopefully he can go even better this year.
“His all-round game's improving all the time but he's still not lost that knack of scoring goals, and hopefully he won't.