Charlie Austin secured his place in Burnley history last night, writes Jamie Smith.
It’s not long ago that Austin was being pilloried by fans online for being, among other things: fat, lazy, a waste of money and nothing more than a lower league forward.
Having arrived shortly after Eddie Howe – who tried to sign him at AFC Bournemouth but couldn’t because of a transfer embargo – Austin initially struggled to settle and he missed a chunk of his first season after damaging his dodgy shoulder. Howe deserves huge credit for bringing Austin to Turf Moor for a bargain £1 million – Blackpool had also agreed a fee for the striker but Austin chose to work with Howe at Burnley instead.
Having returned to action for pre-season the following campaign, many fans claimed Austin was carrying too much weight and would not be able to cut it at Championship level.
Since then, Austin has made those fans look very, very silly. His goal record at Burnley is outrageous, the stats getting even more unbelievable every time he finds the net. He currently has 31 goals in 56 appearances for the Club, better than a goal every other game. He already has as many league goals for Burnley as Jay Rodriguez.
After scoring twice last night at Ashton Gate, Austin became only the second striker ever to score in eight successive matches for Burnley, matching Ray Pointer’s record from over 50 years ago.
Austin has three hat-tricks in 2012. If he gets another by the end of the year, he will match George Beel’s record of four in a calendar year.
Beel and Pointer are two of Burnley’s greatest ever strikers and Austin – though he is yet to play at the top level – deserves to be mentioned alongside them.
This season he already has 15 goals in the Championship, almost twice as many as his nearest rival. To the delight of Clarets, his 18 in all competitions is more than the 17 Blackburn Rovers have managed so far in the league. That’s Blackburn Rovers who spend £8 million on Jordan Rhodes and also boast Portuguese international Nuno Gomes among their forward options.
Austin has scored 21 goals in his last 18 Burnley games. He has scored 14 goals in his last eight games. Burnley have only played three games this season that Austin hasn’t scored in and he missed one of those through injury.
Championship defenders are far from working him out and stifling his threat and that’s because he’s simply too good. Austin’s instinctive movement takes him away from defenders when he sniffs a chance on the way and he rarely misses the target once he’s in.
Here’s how he made Burnley history in recent weeks:
Burnley 5-2 Peterborough United (McCann, Austin x3, Stanislas)
Fittingly, the hot streak started with a hat-trick. McCann headed us into the lead, but Posh fought back to take a 2-1 lead. It was one-way traffic from there though, Austin finding the bottom corner via a failed deflection. It was a goal of some debate, but went down as an Austin goal in the record books. The striker added his second of the game with a firmly hit shot and completed the treble from 12 yards after being brought down by the goalkeeper.
Derby 1-2 Burnley (Austin x2)
Austin was back to his usual tricks at Pride Park, one of his best grounds as a striker. Burnley went behind but Austin hauled them level with a thumping finish before stealing the points in the last minute with a back-post header.
Swindon Town 3-1 Burnley (Austin)
A bad night for Howe’s Burnley as they crashed out of the Capital One Cup to lower league opposition. Austin barely had a sniff of goal all night, but got his goal against his former club towards the end.
Burnley 2-2 Millwall (Mee, Austin)
The Clarets went behind early on, but Ben Mee’s header got them back on level terms. And before the break, Burnley were ahead. Kieran Trippier crossed from deep and from about 16 yards out, Austin somehow headed home. The Clarets couldn’t hold on to win.
Burnley 3-3 Sheffield Wednesday (Austin x3)
Howe spoke about home truths being told in the dressing room after this game, in which Burnley took the lead three times but could only draw. The first goal was another header from a Trippier cross. They equalised immediately. Trippier crossed again, Austin headed in again. 2-1. The lead lasted a little longer this time but Chris O’Grady levelled again in the second half. A thumping finish from Austin late on would surely win the points, but they again equalised straight away to take a point.
Crystal Palace 4-3 Burnley (McCann, Paterson, Austin)
Another ridiculous defensive display saw the Clarets give up a 2-0 lead to go 4-2 down. Austin gave Burnley hope of a late fightback with a crisp finish from 16 yards, but it wasn’t to be. It was Howe’s final game in charge.
Burnley 1-0 Blackpool (Austin)
A first clean sheet since the opening day and a win for Terry Pashley as caretaker manager. It was a familiar story as Austin headed in a pinpoint cross, this time from Ross Wallace. Austin was now within touching distance of the record.
Bristol City 3-4 Burnley (Austin x2, Paterson, McCann)
It took only nine minutes for Austin to make history. McCann played him in and Austin did the rest to give Burnley the lead. He doubled the advantage from the spot, but the Robins got one back. Paterson looked to have made the game safe at 3-1 but City came back, the Clarets giving up a two-goal lead again. With Austin substituted, McCann headed in at the death to seal a second win for Pashley.
Austin has equalled Pointer’s consecutive goals record – can he break it on Saturday at Cardiff City? Comment below.