Charlie Austin was Burnley’s most improved player last season, writes Jamie Smith.
Internet rumours link the former wall-builder with a move to Huddersfield, but in the wake of Jay Rodriguez’s recent transfer to Southampton, it’s inconcievable that we could allow our best striker to leave the Club.
A year ago, doubts remained from some quarters over Sir Charles. Indeed, perhaps they still do. An apparently dodgy shoulder worried some fans, while the economy of movement he shows on the pitch – saving explosive bursts of surprising pace over short distances for when he has a sniff of goal – does not endear him to others.
But Charlie Austin is now our most important player.
At times last season, he looked a bit lost, unsure how to stamp his mark on a Championship match, lacking a little bit of confidence. But that’s all changed now. Most Clarets expect Austin to be our top scorer next season, comfortably so. And you wouldn’t get many who’d bet against him being among the league’s top strikers come May.
Goals win you games and by goodness does Austin know that. Take a look at his record. It is simply staggering. Austin was playing non-league football not so long ago. Wikipedia has him on 16 goals for us already from 40-odd games. Those strikes all came last season. 16 goals in a first full campaign at Championship level is excellent.
One in three for Burnley is good going considering he’s had injury problems since joining the Club and is stepping up to the Championship. He’ll be aiming for one in two next season. Austin already has 150 career goals. The boy only turned 23 earlier this month. He is unfairly talented and I’d be shocked if he never plays Premier League football. Only injury can stop him from going all the way.
The beauty of Austin is you don’t have to build the team around him. Whereas a year ago we were still uncertain as to how to get the best out of Rodriguez – now a £7 million Premier League player – Austin could fit into any side and bang them in on a regular basis. Austin will be the main man, but as he’s capable of scoring all sorts of goals – we’ve already seen headers, tap-ins, cool round-the-goalie finishes and screamers from him – there’s no need to adjust the build-up play to his strengths in any great way. Just get the ball in dangerous areas and he’ll do the rest. What a bargain he looks to have been.
He has the knack. There’s no other way to describe it. Whatever it is, he has it. Managers must wish they could bottle it and give it to their misfiring forwards. Austin seeks out the space, he exploits it, he puts the ball away. He was born to score goals. Charlie Austin is the most natural goalscorer to wear the shirt since Andy Payton. He even sported similar hair last season. It was like having Payton back at times.
Last season we saw his general play come on in leaps and bounds. Back at the start of the campaign he didn’t always look comfortable coming deep for the ball and linking the play. He’s much better now. His aerial ability and strength holding off defenders is also much improved and his general fitness is several levels above what it was when he signed, when some fans labelled him overweight and lazy off the back of his first few, admittedly ineffective, Burnley appearances.
There are some concerns ahead of the coming season: our lack of a convincing goalkeeper, no creative central midfielders on the books, shortage of proven cover up front and so on, but Austin is our banker. He’s a 20 goal a season man, perhaps even a 25 goal a season man given enough service.
Let’s hope that shoulder holds up and we can keep him for a while yet.
Do you agree that Austin was our most improved player last season? Comment below.