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Why Arsenal, Liverpool are chasing Burnley's European Golden Boot contender Charlie Austin

If we were to parachute Lionel Messi into Turf Moor, would the Barcelona star, leaning on his new Burnley teammates and visiting the likes of the New Den and Elland Road, be as successful in front of goal as Charlie Austin?

After all, it is the ex-brickie who stands alone as Europe's top goalscorer so far this season.

The records are tumbling at Turf Moor as news of Austin's exploits spread across England. Last week, Austin smashed a club record set by Andy Lochhead in 1966 when his header against Leeds United secured a 1-0 win.

He'd taken just 17 games - Lochhead took 25 - to get to 20; two weeks ago he equalled a best set by another Burnley legend, Ray Pointer, by scoring in eight consecutive games.

Now the country's biggest clubs, including Liverpool and Arsenal, are posting scouts to run the rule over Austin ahead of the January transfer window. Burnley, having signed Austin only in January from Swindon Town, have slapped a £10 million price-tag on the 23 year-old and are moving to upgrade his contract.

Clarets boss Sean Dyche can see Austin hitting the 50-goal mark this season: "Why can't he go on and get more. I was with Clive Allen at a golf day recently and he got 49 in one season."

This is no one-off in Austin's career. He struck 48 in one season, four years ago with Poole Town, earning a move to Swindon, and after 37 goals in 65 appearances for the Robins, he now has 37 in 67 at Championship level.

Not bad for a Berkshire lad dumped by hometown club Reading for being too small. Nothing's come easy for Austin, who played with Arsenal star Theo Walcott as a ten year-old.

Thrown onto the scrapheap at 15, he worked his way up the ranks of English football, scoring goals wherever he played in the amateur and semi-pro leagues.

But it seemed it was never going to happen for Austin. Even at Poole Town, he was given a preseason chance at Bournemouth and had done enough to win a pro deal - only for the Cherries to be hit by a transfer embargo.

Fortunately, Swindon Town chairman Andrew Fitton, who had known Austin from his time in charge of Hungerford Town, recommended him to the then Robins manager Danny Wilson.

"I got a recommendation from the chairman of Hungerford Town, Andrew Fitton, that they had a decent striker and I went to watch," recalled Sheffield United boss Wilson.

"Charlie had a lot of work to do but he was getting into good positions. We weren't sure he would cope with league football but he was brave and got into areas quicker players don't because of his awareness.

"He had the knack, a sixth sense, and scored in the game so I took a gamble.

"We had to work a lot on his fitness but he'd worked as a hod-carrier so he didn't fancy going back to that and put the effort in to making a go of it.

"He has all the finishing prowess of Alan Shearer because he can score from anywhere. I really think he can go all the way to the Premier League. It's up to those clubs to take that chance."

At Swindon, Austin became a big fans' favourite, reaching the 20 goals mark in his first season as a pro.

tribalfootball.com reporter and Swindon supporter Luke Owen recalls: "Charlie Austin is a hero in my eyes. He will always hold an affinity with the Swindon fans due to his fairytale rise from a bricklayer Swindon Town fan to goal machine. Charlie simply just scores goals, he's got the knack of being in the right place at the right time and everywhere he has played he has scored goals.

"He hit the ground running and just kept scoring match winners and the fans loved him. He is probably the best all round goal scorer I have ever seen in a Swindon shirt, hard working, strong, brave, team player, good vision and most of all clinical. Jamie Redknapp dubbed him the next Alan Shearer in the play off semi final and I could definitely see him scoring goals at any level given the right opportunities and the right transfer.

"Swindon played Burnley in the Capital One Cup recently and of course Charlie scored but didn't celebrate and applauded the Swindon fans afterwards, I can't speak highly enough of him!"

Burnley's goalscoring record is 29 league goals in a season, set by Willie Irvine in 1965-66, and it seems the only way that won't fall is if Austin gets his Premier League move in January.

"Charlie gets into so many scoring positions centre-backs can't work out how to stop him. The goals will keep coming and I will be first to congratulate him when he breaks my record," says Irvine.

"He's a big, confident lad. A nightmare for defenders."

After banging home goals from the Evo-Stik League to the Championship, the Austin "nightmare" appears destined for the Premier League stage real soon.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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