SWINDON TOWN wonder kid and ex-bricklayer Charlie Austin could be laying the foundations for a move into the big time after taking the Football League by storm.
In his debut league season since signing from Wessex Premier minnows Poole Town, 20-year-old Austin has been a cornerstone in Swindon’s remarkable automatic promotion assault in League One – netting 18 times in 26 starts.
Now the County Ground is playing host to a raft of Premier League scouts – the latest from newly-promoted Newcastle United.
His exploits have been raising eyebrows all season and Newcastle boss Chris Hughton sent his representative to Swindon for the Robins’ 1-1 draw with Exeter on Monday night.
Danny Wilson’s Swindon side lie a point behind second-placed Millwall in League One and, despite their promotion hopes being dented after failing to capitalise on their domination against relegation-threatened Exeter City, could realistically join Norwich City in automatic promotion to the Championship – with Austin’s goals a key factor.
Austin’s feat is all the more remarkable considering he was plying his trade at Poole this time last season, while working for the family business as a bricklayer.
The striker had trials at Reading and Swindon as a junior, but found his feat at Poole – firing 46 goals in as many games for the Dorset club, who finished top of their division by 15 points.
AFC Bournemouth were on the verge of recruiting the youngster after a trial after his remarkable campaign, but restrictions left by the club’s transfer embargo paved the way for the dream move to his boyhood favourites.
But it’s clear Austin has the focus on the job in hand that you would expect from a seasoned professional.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, I’m just concentrating on the next four games,” he said after Swindon’s automatic promotion hopes were dented by a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Exeter. This followed two days after losing 3-0 to Colchester United.
Austin felt his side should have won comfortably, instead of relying on a snatched late equaliser through Matt Taylor’s own goal.
“It’s disappointing. We shouldn’t be drawing at home,” he said. “We were the better team by far. If we want to get up to second place then we need to be doing better than that.”
The draw meant Swindon moved to third in League One and a point behind in-form Millwall, who host the Robins on the final day of the season. Austin is still adamant the club can gain automatic promotion.
“I don’t see why we can’t get second. There’s four games to go – if we win those four games then who knows.”
Austin’s personal performances this season have made him an instant fans favourite and first choice striker under manager Danny Wilson, but the Swindon striker is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“He (Danny Wilson) told me not to get carried away with things, look after myself and do what I can. And that’s what I have been trying to do to be honest.”
Former Barnsley manager Wilson has also brought together the partnership of Austin and experienced Billy Paynter, who has added 22 goals to one of the most formidable strike duos to the football league.
Austin added: “It’s been great working with Billy. He’s an experienced striker and I can learn a lot from him. We just need to push on for these next four games.”
The next four games are rightly dominating the mindset of the 20-year-old and, if he keeps his head down, he could yet inspire his side to Championship football next season – and even pave the way for a shot at the Premier League himself.