Tuckerman: Batten down the hatches, because here comes Charlie Austin

There was a moment in stoppage time on a typically grey West London afternoon last August when Charlie Austin reminded everyone of just why he’s the sort of player Brisbane Roar will embrace.

It came with home side Queens Park Rangers pressing for a late equaliser against Barnsley in the Championship, having earlier gone two goals down inside the opening half an hour.

The home fans rose as one as defender Yoann Barbet made an overlapping run down the left, but what they probably didn’t notice was Austin’s intelligent movement off the ball.

As one-time France Under-18 international Barbet sent in a skidding cross, Austin checked his run to sidestep Barnsley defender Michal Helik. By the time the ball fizzed across the edge of the six-yard box, Austin was completely unmarked.

He opened his body, let the ball run across him and impudently side-footed QPR’s equaliser into the far corner of the Barnsley goal.

And then, as they so often did throughout the two spells of Austin’s goal-laden QPR career, the fans inside Loftus Road went berserk.

Make no mistake; Charlie Austin is the real deal. He’s had to be.
Rejected as a teenager by his hometown club Reading, Austin was laying bricks for a living and playing for Poole Town as a part-time footballer in the ninth tier Wessex League before his career took a sharp upwards turn.

An astonishing 46 goals in 46 games across all competitions for Poole Town in 2008-09 caught the eye of the professional scouts, and after a transfer embargo saw Bournemouth fail to land their target, Austin found himself at the County Ground as a newly-minted Swindon Town player soon afterwards.

A successful transition to professional football in Wiltshire eventually saw Burnley come calling, but it’s at Queens Park Rangers where Austin really made his name, with the bustling striker finishing as fourth-top scorer in the 2014-15 Premier League with an impressive 18 goals.

Sadly for Austin his QPR side finished rock bottom that season, but after an injury-curtailed campaign in the second tier, the powerful striker found himself back in the Premier League with Southampton.

It was to be a fractious four seasons on the south coast. Injuries, suspensions, multiple managerial changes and the presence of Shane Long saw Austin gradually fall down the pecking order, although he endeared himself to fans with a penchant for relentlessly speaking his mind in post-match interviews.

That same predilection for blunt honesty saw Austin admit he didn’t leave the Saints in the most pleasant of circumstances, but after firing West Brom to promotion in 2020, Austin ultimately found himself back at the club where he’d enjoyed his greatest success.

He couldn’t quite repeat the feat and fire QPR back to the promised land of the Premier League, but more than 50 league goals across two spells in the blue-and-white hoops means Austin leaves Loftus Road a legend.

That’s exactly what he’ll be aiming to be in Brisbane – and it’s hard not to compare Austin to another former Championship striker who turned the A-League Men on its head in the form of Adam Le Fondre.

Austin’s imposing 188-centimetre frame means he’s much more of a target man than the nimble Le Fondre, but there’s no denying he’s got a good touch for a big man to go along with his goal-scoring instincts. He crashes home plenty of headers too. Woe betide any opposition defenders who fail to pick up Austin from a trademark Jay O’Shea set piece!

But more than just goals, what Charlie Austin brings to Brisbane Roar is excitement. Fans have been calling for a marquee signing. Now they’ve got one.

Suddenly the new A-League Men season just got very interesting. No doubt coach Warren Moon has a few more tricks up his sleeves, but for now Brisbane Roar fans should be ecstatic the club has pulled off a major coup.

Call him Chaz. Call him a diamond geezer. Call him whatever you want, really. Except ‘finished’.

Because on the basis of everything we’ve seen from his career so far, he’s still got plenty of goals to score in orange.

Charlie Austin is the sort of excitement machine Brisbane Roar fans can rally round. And he’s coming to an A-League Men stadium near you.

Mike Tuckerman is a freelance football writer.