LONDON (Reuters) – One of the mysteries of the English season so far has been Charlie Austin lurking in the second tier with several Premier League clubs crying out for a reliable goalscorer.
Austin scored 18 top-flight goals last season, no mean feat considering he was part of a Queens Park Rangers side that was relegated, yet when the pre-season transfer dealing was concluded in September, he stayed put.
The 26-year-old continued to score regularly in the Championship this season and was rewarded with a move to Southampton last week for 4 million pounds ($5.71 million).
When he marked his debut with Southampton’s winner at shot-shy Manchester United on Saturday, minutes after coming on as a substitute, the four million pounds fee already looked like one of the best pieces of business this season.
As United’s scoring woes continued — they have failed to score in the first half of their last 11 home matches and managed only one effort on target on Saturday — disgruntled fans leaving Old Trafford must have wondered why Austin had not been offered to manager Louis van Gaal.
“Whenever I go on the pitch, I always think, be ready, a chance will come, luckily enough a chance did come and I put it away,” Austin, who gave United keeper David De Gea no chance with an 87th-minute header to seal a 1-0 win, told Southampton’s website.
“A January move is tough for anybody, you have to hit the ground running. Luckily I’ve got off the zero already.”
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman could hardly believe his luck when handed Austin as a belated Christmas present.
He has a tailor-made top-flight striker ready to go.
“It’s fantastic for Charlie,” Koeman said. “A great debut for him personally, but the whole team worked together.
“He has big numbers in scoring goals and showed that today. It’s a great signing and gives us competition.”
($1 = 0.7010 pounds)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)