Charlie Austin’s first Premier League goal was not like most others this weekend, his strike against Sunderland symbolized how far the striker has come in the last five years.
Austin, now 25, is a million miles away from the life he had at Poole Town in 2009 where he played in front of just 200 people. At QPR’s Loftus Road he is strutting his stuff to a loyal London crowd of 20,000, when Manchester United away comes around, that amount will quadruple to 80,000.
It was humble beginnings for Austin, released by Reading in 2004 for being too short he was out the game for three years before joining Berkshire based Kintbury Rangers in England’s 10th tier where he netted 20 goals in 27 games in his one season at the club.
A move to hometown side Hungerford Town followed but this spell was less fruitful, Austin found the net just five times in his 30 games there.
He relocated to Bournemouth after his unsuccessful season at Hungerford and joined Poole Town where he scored 48 goals in 42 games over the space of a season and a half whilst being a bricklayer as the day job.
Bournemouth themselves, then in League Two, tried to sign Austin in the 2009/10 season after the striker’s successful trial at Dean Court but a transfer embargo put an end to that transfer.
Shortly after, Swindon Town a division up offered Austin a trial after Swindon chief scout Ken Ryder “stumbled across Charlie (Austin) playing for Poole Town…and he scored four goals…and then the following week he scored three or four”. Austin scored a hat-trick against Swansea reserves and was snapped up immediately.
His Football League debut came at Carrow Road, coming on as a 70th minute substitute against Norwich City where he did not score but the wait was not long, his first goal coming in his first start away at Carlisle United after just three minutes.
Goal number two came soon after, in his home debut three days later, nabbing a 59th minute winner against Huddersfield Town.
During his time at Swindon, Austin forged a superb working relationship with Billy Paynter. They played together once for the reserves against the Reading equivalent and both scored two. League One’s finest strike partnership was born.
Paynter ended the season second top scorer in League One with 26 goals behind a certain Rickie Lambert on 30 while Austin himself grabbed 20.
Swindon reached the play-off final that year, losing 0-1 to Millwall at Wembley, it might have been different had the cruel turf at England’s national stadium not prevented Austin with a goal, the ball bobbling before Austin could pull the trigger leading to an uncharacteristic miss.
He did score in the first leg of the semi final against Charlton Athletic however.
The following season was a more frustrating one for Austin, suffering a dislocated shoulder in September but when back on the pitch, goals duly followed, 12 of them in fact which led to him joining Burnley in January after he failed to agree personal terms with Ipswich Town.
Former club Swindon were relegated and despite Austin’s January departure, he remained their top scorer that season.
Burnley beginnings were tough for Austin, a relapse of his earlier shoulder injury dampened his start, playing just four games in the remainder of the season, scoring zero.
It was business as usual the next season though, scoring 16 goals and finishing at the top of the team’s scoring charts.
In his third term at Turf Moor Austin became a club record breaker. A brace against Bristol City saw him equal Ray Pointer’s 1958 club record of scoring in eight consecutive appearances and a fortnight later Austin became the quickest Claret to reach 20 goals in a season and ended the campaign with 25.
Austin is of course now a Premier League player but the top flight have been calling since last summer. Hull City had a bid accepted from Burnley but Austin failed his medical and instead joined QPR for £4 million.
Once again Austin was the top marksman for a club, scoring 17 in 31 as QPR were promoted back to the Premiership at the first time of asking via the play-offs.
If he can adapt to the play of the Premier League in the same ilk as he has done with League One and the Championship then Austin may well be in with a shot of making the England team.
Lambert has made the step from League One to England national team and Austin is six years younger than his former third tier counterpart.
The world is at Charlie Austin’s feet, and his feet have treated him well so far.