With a shortage of quality English centre forwards, the ongoing saga concerning the future of Charlie Austin is baffling. The Queens Park Rangers striker was widely expected to leave the club this summer following their relegation to the Championship but two weeks before the window closes, Austin remains in London. He has been repeatedly linked with several Premiership clubs such as Newcastle, West Ham, Leicester and Spurs but to date no club has match the clubs valuation of the player, reported to be £15million. The fee itself is not ridiculous given the recent transfers of Raheem Sterling for £45million to Manchester City and Christian Benteke for £32million to Liverpool. Austin out scored both of these players last year and that was playing in one of the poorest teams in the league. With several clubs including the four mentioned above in need of a centre forward in the Alan Shearer mould, why they have not taken the option of signing Austin has pundits and journalists alike scratching their heads.
Various potential reasons have been touted from wage demands, injuries and assurances over how often he will play but none have really been verified. With Austin starting and scoring in QPR’s first couple of games of the new season it looks like he is in great shape and hardly struggling from the injuries that many clubs are rumoured to be concerned about. In fact just looking at the players absences for injuries last season confirms this with Austin starting 35 out of 38 games last season for QPR, missing only ten days last season due to an ankle knock and a further nine days due to suspension.The on going speculation about his future appears to have not fazed the player who continues to work hard in training despite some negative remarks about him in the press. Given that he is one of QPR’s most sellable assets, Austin has conducted himself well since the club was relegated. Unlike most pre madonna strikers, the Hungerford born frontman has not thrown his toys out of the pram and insisted that the club sell him, instead got his head down and worked hard in pre season on his fitness letting the speculation around his future roll on in the background. But eventually Austin had to break his silence and after months of injury rumours including what he described as an outrageous slur made by West Ham Chairman David Sullivan, Austin fought back. In a prepared statement, Austin hit back at Sullivan and his remarks during a fan podcast where he said that Austin was too great a risk due to a knee problem, stating that this was highly inaccurate, misleading and an uniformed innuendo. He added that the so-called injuries he was carrying were not accurate in the slightest and that he was in fact in great shape.
Anyone who has watched him play in QPR’s first two games of the season would struggle to argue with this statement. He has started much as he left off last year, doing what he does best – scoring goals. His strike rate of 18 goals in 35 games last season put him fourth in the top goal scorers chart behind Man City’s Sergio Aguero, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Chelsea’s Diego Costa and brought his career tally to 110 goals in 183 games since joining Swindon form non league Poole Town in 2009. This in itself is remarkable if you think about the service that the other three received from the players around them compared to the scraps that Austin was living off. There was no David Silva, Christian Eriksson or Eden Hazard in the QPR team last year that could create space and a chance for Austin to score. Instead the 6ft 2in powerhouse used all of his skills to create and score his own chances. Austin is a formidable opponent and a defenders worst nightmare – an old fashion striker who not only is able to hold off the biggest of defenders but has the ability to turn them and finish with power and accuracy. Given his size, he is also unsurprisingly good in the air but with enough vision and composure to bring the ball down and coolly slot it away if necessary. Many consider Austin to be a shoo in for a future role as England number nine with the 26-year-old gaining his first call up last year but failing to make it on from the bench. Regardless of his next move, Hodgson would be foolish to ignore Austin as he builds a squad for next years European Championships.
For now, Austin waits for the right club to come along and pay the fee that QPR are holding out for. Given his obvious talent and finishing ability, its hard to believe that he will remain a QPR player after the window. As we said before, half the teams in the Premiership could do with a player like Austin leading their line, especially given his recent track record in front of goal. Austin himself who is ever the professional will focus on QPR’s promotional challenge and will be looking to continue his good form, proving once again to the doubters that he is a player who they should be buying.