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Jun 29, 2022   |  8:00AM AET

‘My dreams are done… time to be a builder’: Austin’s rise from non-league labourer to Premier League spearhead

‘My dreams are done… time to be a builder’: Austin’s rise from non-league labourer to Premier League spearhead

Charlie Austin began his professional football journey began as a teenager in the notoriously cut-throat industry of English youth football.

It’s where his dream of reaching the top of the game was both inspired and almost vanquished, his release from Reading FC at the age of 15 nearly resulting in Austin being lost to the game for good.

Now, he uses the memory of the years that followed, spent on building sites and in non-league football before everything changed, as a reminder to appreciate every moment of a career which saw him rise to prominence in the English top flight.

Austin arrives at Brisbane Roar having scored prolifically in the English Premier League and Championship throughout a career which has seen the 32-year-old named Premier League Player of the month, score winning goals at Old Trafford and rise all the way to the England national squad.

Austin still looks back on his release from Reading as a defining moment of his adolescence – one that placed him on the path toward becoming a bricklayer and non-league footballer.

“Finished. I was 15, I thought that was it – the dreams were over,” Austin told Premier League TV in an interview in May, 2022 whilst on the books of Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

“That’s quite sad to think that plenty of kids, older and younger, are thinking: you give up time, and your parents’ time, twice a week then go and play games all around the country, and they invest so much into it, but the opportunity and the chance is so slim.

“When I was told it was it, I thought: ‘My dreams are done’. That’s when it was time to be a builder.”

Austin began working for the building firm owned by his father and grandfather, playing non-league football on the weekends. His family’s move to Bournemouth in 2008 paved the way for Austin to join Poole Town in the Wessex Football League – the ninth tier of the English football system. 

He scored 46 goals in 46 games for Poole, catching the attention of AFC Bournemouth head coach Eddie Howe. He spent two months with the Cherries, but due to the club’s transfer embargo was unable to sign.

Instead, he joined League One outfit Swindon Town.

He made his full debut for Swindon in November, 2009, and went on to score 13 goals in 18 starts. From that moment onwards, there was no looking back for the Englishman destined for the Premier League.

Austin of Swindon celebrates scoring the opening goal during them League One Playoff Semi Final first leg between against Charlton Athletic on May 14, 2010.

If you tuned in to the 2021-22 Championship season, you may have spotted a pink-haired Austin turning out for Queens Park Rangers; the reason for the bright colour was to spark conversations about a topic which hits close to home for the Brisbane-bound striker.

Together with wife Bianca, Austin has three children: daughters Mallayla and Avabella and son Hunter. Their two daughters are both on the Autism spectrum, and with his eldest, Mallayla, not properly diagnosed through her formative years, Austin has used his profile to spread awareness of the importance of identifying the disorder as early as possible in a child’s life to assist their transition into schooling and beyond.

Austin “went pink” during Autism Awareness Week as a promise to his two daughters, and took to Instagram to share the poignant message behind his simple gesture.

“Our eldest who is Autistic and has ADHD went through primary school labelled as just ‘naughty’,” he wrote. 

“She didn’t get her diagnosis which enabled her to have help until secondary school, but even then she faced unneeded challenges and moved schools many times .

“I’ve had calls from teachers saying “your child’s in trouble, and her body language and lack of eye contact shows she clearly doesn’t care… Luckily my youngest (Avabella’s) school have been fantastic and learning support have been on board with her from an early age. 

“The difference it makes when your child’s school is on board is honestly huge. I can see that from comparison. Avabella is now top of the list for her ADHD assessment too.The school have been incredible and their input has made such a difference.”

Wife Bianca, daughters Mallayla and Avabella and son Hunter are now Austin’s “four bosses” at home – five, when he counts the family dog.

The expansion of Austin’s family has occurred alongside a football career which took off from Swindon, with a move to Burnley in 2011 handing Austin his first taste of Championship football. It was at Burnley where Austin reunited with Howe, who was unable to sign the forward at Bournemouth in 2009. Austin scored 45 goals in 90 games at Turf Moor before joining QPR in August, 2013. It was under manager Harry Redknapp at the London club where Austin tasted life in the Premier League for the very first time. 

As was the case at Poole in the Wessex Football League and with Swindon in League One, Austin made an explosive start to life in a new division.

The 2014-15 Premier League campaign was his most prolific; he scored 18 goals in 35 games to finish fourth in the league’s Golden Boot race, winning Premier League Player of the Month in December, 2015 after bagging five goals in five games – including a hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion. 

It was during the 2014-15 campaign when Austin earned a call-up to the England international squad, although he never managed to earn himself a cap for the Three Lions. 

Austin scores for Queens Park Rangers against Sunderland in the Premier League on August 30, 2014.

From QPR it was on to Southampton the following season, where Austin scored on debut in a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. In five seasons at the Saints he made 71 Premier League appearances and scored 16 goals. 

Southampton qualified for the UEFA Europa League in 2016-17 after finishing sixth in the Premier League the season prior. Austin made five appearances in the competition and scored two goals.

Austin departed Southampton for West Brom in 2019, returning to the Championship but playing a heavy hand in guiding the Baggies back to the top table. He made five Premier League appearances in the 2020-21 campaign before returning to QPR and the championship mid-season. It’s where he remained until the end of the 2021-22 Championship campaign.

On May 6, Austin announced his departure from the R’s, scoring 61 times in 148 games across his two spells at the London club.

Less than two months later, Austin put pen to paper on a multi-year deal at Brisbane Roar. 

The Isuzu UTE A-League is the next frontier for the man who, at the age of 20 in 2010, revealed to The Guardian UK his source of eternal motivation to continue pursuing his footballing dream.

“One day, when I was 17, I was working in a place called Overton. By 2pm we were drenched through and it felt like I had a glass back. I couldn’t bend it and I was covered in mud,” he said.

“If I ever get fed up for one minute with football, I’ll think back to that day and remember I’ve got the best life in the world now.”

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