The Washbag Meets: Charlie Austin

After speaking to Vincent Pericard a few weeks ago, we talk to another of our 2009/10 League One Play-Off final squad and current Burnley striker Charlie Austin. We ask Charlie about; his rise from non-league to the Football League, key moments at Swindon Town including that miss at Wembley and life at Burnley in the Championship.

Ron: As a youngster how did you take being rejected by Reading?

Charlie Austin: It was hard to take, but at the time I just wanted to play football with my friends again as I fell out of love with football

R: When playing for Thatcham Town, Kintbury Rangers, Hungerford and Poole Town did you ever doubt your ability to make it to the professional game and one day be a million pound footballer?

CA: I never really thought about it like that. I was working for my dad and just enjoying playing with my mates again at the weekend.

R: So at that point did you give up on becoming a professional footballer?

CA: I gave up after [leaving] Reading.

R: At what stage did it seem to you that you might get a shot at the professional game?

CA: It never ever did. It never felt like that as I was just scoring goals and enjoying my football.

R: In the summer just before you joined Swindon, AFC Bournemouth only missed out on signing you due to a transfer embargo. What factors influenced your move to Wiltshire?

CA: It was a team that wanted to sign me, and after training with Bournemouth I got the love back. At that point I really wanted the chance to be a professional footballer. When Bournemouth said they couldn’t sign me, I though “this is never going to happen…not for me” so when Swindon came knocking it was an obvious choice. I got the opportunity at 19 years old, not many people that age get the opportunity I did.

R: Do you feel that coming back from part-time football has given you a different attitude to players who have never worked outside of football?

CA: Of course it has 100%. I know exactly what its like working outside football.

R: What is the difference between a League and a non-league player? Is it skill, professionalism or luck?

CA: There’s a bit of everything to be honest. Training every day so your all round fitness is a major key, which is something I found out in my short spell at Bournemouth. Obviously when your training with better players with better facilities you’re going to inevitably improve.

R: Since you arrived onto the scene many amateur footballers dream of doing a ‘Charlie Austin’ and themselves getting that ‘dream’ job as a professional footballer. What three pieces of advice would you give someone in this position?

CA: Firstly you should never give up believing that your good enough to make it. Secondly, always give 100% in games and training as you never know who could be watching you. And thirdly, always try and be the best you can be.

Q: The partnership between you and Billy Paynter hit it off from the start. How crucial was Billy to your development as a footballer?

CA: When you have someone like that to play alongside with your always going to learn, whether it was in games or training. I learnt a lot from Billy and he scored 29 goals in an unbelievable season not only for him but for the club.

R: You scored many fantastic goals for us, but what was your favourite goal for Swindon?

CA: Southampton away, when we won 1-0, although Rochdale away also wasn’t a bad strike.

R: What was your most memorable game in a Swindon shirt?

CA: Charlton Athletic home and away in the play off semi finals. These were both massive games and great nights all round.

R: These photos show the defining memory for us Town fans at the League One Play Off Final in May 2010. Just what went through your mind as that shot hit that ‘divot’ in the pitch at Wembley and flew wide of the post?

CA: My mind went blank. Those last 15 minutes were just a blur.

R: So given the effect that the miss had, were you surprised when Wilson substituted Billy Paynter instead of you?

CA: No. Because Danny Wilson had belief in me. If you listen to his comments after [the match] he believed if I had another chance I would score it. So that shows his confidence and belief he had in me.

R: Just why did it all go horribly wrong for Swindon post Wembley?

CA: I really can’t put my finger on it, and don’t think anyone else could either.

R: Were you as disappointed at us with our lack of punch in the transfer market post Wembley?

CA: A little bit yeah, but we only lost two players, but those two players were huge for us. We never replaced Billy Paynter, a 29 goal centre forward, and Gordon [Greer] a strong centre half and a true winner.

R: For me the departure of Gordon Greer was the turning point that summer. How important was he to the dressing room?

CA: Massive. He’s a big character and always had a lot to say. Gordon will always be a natural born winner. He always has a way of picking a player up when they are down.

R: It always seemed as if Wilson never really appreciated the true value of Greer to the team when he departed, even up until he resigned when he always never admitted this was a mistake. In situations like this, as a player have you, or would you make your voice heard to ensure such a vital player is replaced?

CA: You just have to trust in the manager and their decision 100%. I’m a player, not a manager. People fail to see the stress and pressure managers are put under.

R: Are you able to elaborate on your reasons for leaving the County Ground?

CA: I wanted a crack at the Championship as soon as possible and I didn’t think Swindon were going to take me there that season.

R: If we had been pushing for promotion from League One in 2010/11 would you have stayed?

CA: 100 % [if] we would have been a Championship club and that’s where I wanted to be, I have ambition.

R: At what point did you realise that wasn’t to be with Swindon?

CA: It was clear in my second season that we wasn’t going to match the heights of the first season. But I still loved every minute that I was a Swindon Town player.

R: In hindsight do you believe handing in a transfer request was the right thing to do to force the issue?

CA: I needed to do what I had to do, for me.

R: A year ago you were linked with various clubs including Celtic and Ipswich. Why did you decide to move to Burnley?

CA: It was just the right place for me at the time, they want to get back into the Premier League and I’d like to one day be there.

R: How have you had to change your game for the Championship level? And what are the key differences between League One and the Championship?

CA: Like I said before, playing with better players you’re constantly learning and improving, so my all round game changed, but it hasn’t changed the fact that im a natural goalscorer.

R: At Burnley you’ve suffered a reoccurrence of your shoulder injury suffered at Swindon. What is life like stuck on the treatment table recovering from injury and how serious is this new injury?

CA: It’s obviously not great because you want to play every game and doing your bit for the team.

R: Being thrust from non-league and into the public eye you’ve experienced the good and bad of the media and rumours going around surrounding ‘off-field activities’. How did you cope with this new exposure?

CA: I never really listened to them to be honest as I knew none of them were true. I think as I was just a local boy it was easy to be a target.

R: Paolo wants a new striker. Will you come back to Wiltshire now that things are on the up?

CA: Who knows what the future holds, never say never 🙂

R: Thanks for offering to answer these questions. Cheers!

Charlie’s favourite goal for STFC against Southampton:


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