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Charlie Austin feature: Former Poole star talks to the Echo
IT is little wonder Charlie Austin still takes a moment to pinch himself.
One of the most prolific strikers in English football, he is the hottest property outside of the Premier League.
But life was not always such a dream for the bricklayer turned Championship goalscorer extraordinaire.
It was not so long ago that the Burnley hotshot was building walls, rather than demolishing defences.
“When I look back, four years ago I was playing with my mates on a Sunday morning,” Austin told the Echo.
“I was playing on a Sunday morning and the people watching were walking their dogs!”
The 23-year-old’s fairytale, dizzying climb from relative obscurity is real life Roy of the Rovers stuff.
But despite his status as a star in the pro ranks, you couldn’t accuse Austin of forgetting his roots.
Sixty-four goals and 57 appearances later, Austin’s place in Wessex League folklore was assured and his path into professional football had been well and truly mapped out. The rest is history.
“Micky Hubbard played a big part,” said Austin, reflecting on his early days with Poole.
“If I hadn’t met Mick, then I don’t think I would have clicked with many others.
“We just got on really well. Luckily enough, I was up front and he was in midfield and that was one of the reasons why it clicked.
“So many people compare me and Tom Killick as people so that helped as well.”
Swindon came calling to hand Austin his big chance before Howe finally landed his man in a £1.2million deal for Burnley.
Having netted 80 times in 151 professional appearances for those two clubs, Austin has been linked with an England cap and numerous top-flight suitors.
But despite moving on to bigger and better things, like any frontman, he doesn’t forget his goals.
“My favourite memories at Poole include winning the league and going pretty much unbeaten until the last two games of the season,” recalled Austin.
“Also, I remember the night we played Dorchester in the Dorset Senior Cup final. I scored in extra-time and then Steve Smith scored and we won 2-0.”
There was little reason for anybody at Poole to complain as Austin tore up the Wessex League with alarming ease. But when he did step out of line, he was quickly put in his place.
Many a footballer has been on the receiving end of a robust challenge from Poole’s legendary midfielder Taffy Richardson, but it was a tongue-lashing which Austin was hit with.
He said: “In my last game against Moneyfields away, we were losing 1-0 and I didn’t really know what was going on with my move to Swindon.
“I had the hump and had a little tantrum. We were 1-0 down, I wasn’t really in the mood and was being silly.
“Taffy said to me ‘Charlie, come on, we have got to be here next week. If you’re not, we still have to be’.
“I just thought ‘I am playing with my mates here and I don’t really want to let them down, whether I am going to be here or not’. Then, the next minute, I just went on a rampage.”
Poole won the game 6-1. Austin scored five.
Sunday mornings in the park are a thing of the past...but some things haven’t changed.