CHARLIE Austin might be leaving Europe's most fabulous forwards in the wake of the goal trail he is blazing, but Kieran Trippier admits the striker isn’t boasting about being better than Lionel Messi.
For starters, he wouldn’t dare.
“I don’t think he’d go as far as saying that – the lads would hammer him,” laughed Trippier, before adding, “Although the stats don’t lie!
“But Messi will probably go on and get 70!”
But with Austin reaching 20 after just 17 games, Trippier wouldn’t put it past the continent’s top scorer to end the season with double that amount.
“I don’t see why he can’t get 30 or 40,” he said.
“He’s on fire. I’ve never played with anyone like him, scoring 20 at this stage of the season.
“I can’t believe he’s the top scorer in Europe, but I think he will be for a long time."”
Trippier can take some of the credit for Austin motoring to the top of the goal charts.
His cross for the striker’s late winner against Leeds on Tues-day was one of six assists the right back has laid claim to this season – mostly for Austin's benefit.
“Every time I cross the ball, it’s like a magnet to his head. He seems to be on the end of everything,” he said.
“We do that in training. He is just great to play with. If you put the ball in the box for him he is unbelievable.
“When Jay (Rodriguez) was here last year he was scoring loads.
“Now every time we play I feel so confident going into the game that Charlie is going to score.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s game at Ipswich Town, Trippier admitted that such is Austin’s scoring rate (he has drawn a blank in only three games so far) it feels like already having a 1-0 lead before kick-off.
But as vital as the former Swindon Town front man’s goals have been this season, the shut-outs need just as much emphasis.
No-one cut a more frustrated figure than Austin when his hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday was cancelled out by the Owls’ late equaliser.
Twice in that game the Clarets conceded within a minute of scoring.
They had previously held a 2-1 lead at home to Millwall, only to let two points slip through their fingers in the last minute.
Indeed, new manager Sean Dyche will remember well from last season how his then Watford team overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Clarets 3-2.
But in his opening two games as Burnley boss they have become only the second team this season to keep out both Wolves and Leeds, and in doing so register three home clean sheets on the spin – the first of those, against Blackpool, coming under Terry Pashley’s caretaker watch.
Getting forward is a trademark of Trippier’s game, but he has heeded Dyche’s instructions to limit his right wing raids for the benefit of bolstering the back four, and it has so far paid dividends.
“I thought with the last gaffer, go back, for instance to Watford away last year, 2-0 up and cruising, and we lose 3-2. We did that plenty of times, but the new manager has recognised that and taken it on to the training ground and things are working at the moment,” said the former Manchester City def-ender.
“He’s a great manager to work with. We do more defensive work and he puts a smile on everyone’s faces.
“We’ve needed to do more defensive work, and it’s paid off in the last two games with two clean sheets.
“He has put some great ideas in our minds. Everything he has told us has been spot on and we’ve done it.”
Timing his runs has been a key tweak for Trippier.
“Last year I was flying forward all the time, but I’ve had a slow season, my defending wasn’t the best, but it’s getting better, and now the manager’s doing a lot of work with us, and as a unit we’re defending well,” he said.
“Going forward will take care of itself, it’s the defensive side of things I needed to improve.
“I might not go forward as often as people like, but the most important thing is the defensive side, stopping goals going in our net.
“I think I only went forward three or four times against Leeds, but set up the winner, and for the other 85 minutes I was helping keep a clean sheet.
“If I don’t bomb forward, you have Ben Mee on the left, who’s great going forward, Rosco (Ross Wallace), Dean Marney, Chris McCann, Junior (Stanislas) – I could go through all the team, we have a great threat.
“The back four have been criticised recently, but we’ve shown how good we are in the last two games. I’ve got a lot more energy from not going forward as much. I’ve needed to work on the defensive part of my game, and done a lot of work on it.
“I try to get forward as often as I can, but as long as the ball doesn’t go in the back of our net, that’s the important thing.”
And that defensive element goes from back to front.
“The manager has done a lot on pressing – if you get in people’s faces, they don’t like that,” Trippier noted.
“Having people like Pato (Martin Paterson) pressing you all the game is bound to annoy you! He’s great to have on your team.”
The mood in the camp, he admits, is a positive one.
“Look at Palace, they lost their first few games and are top of the league now, we’re three points or so off the play-offs and believe we can be up there,” he said.
“Anybody can beat anybody, and we’re going through a good spell.
“Hopefully it continues.”