Charlie Austin makes a bold case to make England’s Euro 2016 squad
By introducing himself to the Southampton faithful with the winner at Old Trafford, not only did Charlie Austin make a bright start to his career back on the south coast, but he also did no harm to his England chances.
It took the former QPR man just eight minutes to get off the mark for the Saints since arriving from west London, and if he continues to find the back of the net he would surely be in the running for a place at Euro 2016.
Ladbrokes make it a 6/1 chance that the Hungerford-born striker is included in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the tournament and it’s certainly a price that could represent a bit of value.
Weighing up the potential front-men to make the trip across the Channel in the summer, one suspects that it will be a scrap for the fourth and final striker’s berth, with Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy poised to be included.
The people likely to give Austin competition for that place have plenty of questions – mostly about fitness – to answer.
Both Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge would in all likelihood be on the plane were they fit, but with the former not seen this season and the latter going through injury hell they could both miss out.
That gives hope for Austin, whose strike on Saturday was his 19th Premier League goal in 36 top-flight appearances.
Despite hamstring issues and talk of a lack of knee ligaments, Austin’s stats speak for themselves.
He has featured in 30 or more league fixtures in seven of the last nine seasons, scoring nearly 200 goals in the process.
Consistency has been key for a man who was playing in the Wessex Premier League at step nine of the football pyramid just seven years ago.
The 26-year-old is on course to record a goals-to-games ratio of one every two matches for the sixth season in seven, a pretty admirable record.
It’s not just the sheer number of goals that mean Austin looks an invaluable option to Hodgson in France.
Before he got injured again, Andy Carroll was spoken about as a dark horse to make a late bid for inclusion as an alternative option up top with his aerial prowess.
But with the West Ham man crocked once more adding a forward that is good in the air might just be a priority for the Three Lions boss.
Austin’s headed goal at Old Trafford was the fifth time he has scored with his head this season, with the type of goal making up half of his 10 strikes this term.
Consider that his 10 headers scored since the start of the 2014-15 campaign matches the total accrued by Rooney, Vardy and Carroll between them, and he could well be the final piece in the England attacking jigsaw.
He has yet to make an appearance for England at any level, and even though he is now 26-years-old, Southampton have a habit of helping players secure better-late-than-never international call-ups.
Both Graziano Pelle (29) and Jose Fonte (30) earned their first cap for their country in their relatively later years after impressing at St Mary’s and Austin could well be the next on that list though at a touch younger.
Austin will need to not only continue to deliver in front of goals but see his competitors fall by the wayside to get into the England squad.
But with 18 Premier League goals for a poor QPR side showing he can cut it in the top-tier, he looks plenty of value to be donning the Three Lions in the summer.
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