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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower