Brick by brick, Austin powers to the top

After freezing, muddy days working for his dad's building firm, Charlie's goals could now propel Swindon into the Championship

Of the many things that are surprising about the professional football career of Charlie Austin, perhaps the most surprising of all is that it began only eight months ago.

Since being signed by Swindon Town from Poole Town of the Wessex League last October, the 20-year-old has scored 20 goals in 32 starts, forming a striking partnership with the similarly prolific Billy Paynter which has played a major part in propelling the Wiltshire club to the League One play-off final next Saturday.

Given that Austin averaged close to a goal a game in non-League football for the previous four years, he might have expected to get a chance at a higher level sooner than he did, but suggest that to him and the reaction is philosophical.

"Well, I think a few clubs probably looked at me, and after I scored a few for Poole in the Wessex League, Bournemouth had me in to train with them, but then they had a [Football League-imposed] transfer embargo," Austin says.

"I hadn't given up hope, though. I was working for my dad's building firm, laying bricks mainly, and he always said to make sure I put everything into every game because you never knew who was watching."

Not that he was struggling to find motivation. "I got released by Reading when I was 14 on the grounds I was probably always going to be too small, and though there was some interest from Swindon I had a bit of a knee injury, and in the end nothing came of it.

"At that point I didn't really think it was going to happen for me, so I played at Hungerford – my home town – and lived like a normal teenager really, going out on Fridays and that. But then when I finished at school I found out what working for a living was all about."

One such day he has never forgotten. "It was a cold, wet day on site at a village called Overton, and it was one of the longest days of my life; drenched, freezing, miserable, covered in mud. I was so stiff that I could barely move by the time it came to go home. I'll never forget it."

A family move to Bournemouth saw Austin join Poole Town, and 48 goals in 43 games in 2008-09 brought him to the attention of Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe. Then Swindon's chairman Andrew Fitton, who had been at Hungerford, recommended him to Danny Wilson. Having scored in a trial for the reserves, Austin arrived for a Poole game to see Wilson seated in the stand.

"I wasn't sure what he'd think of the standard, to be honest," Austin admits. "It was a good few levels [six] below League One, and also I'd been at work all day and then had to drive over an hour to get there. But I got stuck in and was lucky enough to score a couple in the first half. When we came out for the second, he'd gone."

Two days later, Wilson called. A £50,000 deal had been agreed. The next call Austin made was to his father. "It was emotional, because he and mum and my grandparents had always come to every match. They still do, it's just harder to pick them out than at Poole!"

Being asked for an autograph still makes him smile. "First time it happened I felt I wanted to ask whether they were sure they'd got the right person. Especially after I made a decent start but then went four games without scoring."

Since then he has barely stopped, including a crucial headed goal in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Charlton. The tie went to penalties but Austin held his nerve in front of the Charlton fans.

Now for Millwall at Wembley, a prospect the young man repeatedly suggests is "unbelievable". "When I think where I was and what I was doing just a few months ago, it's all you can say really. I think the last game I played in for Poole there were less than 100 spectators. We washed our own kit. How are you supposed to put into words what's happened since?"

Remarkably, it could get even better. Austin is said to be close to an England Under-21 call-up. Having worked on building sites himself in his time in non-League football, Stuart Pearce will have a good understanding of Austin's drive to succeed.

Like the former Birmingham and West Bromwich striker Geoff Horsfield, another former brickie, Austin may also be on his way to the Premier League with Newcastle. Wilson is not surprised. "All credit goes to Charlie, he's worked very hard to put himself in a position where he's being talked about," said the Swindon manager.

"Even though he was playing at the level he was, we still felt the basic rudiments were there. He was calculated in what he was doing, always getting into great areas. Of course there's still a lot of his game that he needs to brush up on but one thing you can't give him is that instinct, it is in-built. What's brilliant is that Charlie is maximising that himself."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
football
Sport
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
News
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine