Burnley and Huddersfield hot shots on collision course
FORGET a trans-Pennine duel, Huddersfield v Burnley has become a head to head of the Championship’s hotshots.
Jordan Rhodes has been a hot topic in the transfer market this summer, after ending last season with 40 goals in 46 games, including a five-goal haul in a 6-0 win at Wycombe, which ended his remarkable run of 12 goals in just five games.
But Burnley are boasting their own fearsome forward, with Charlie Austin in red-hot form thanks to a goal in each of the opening three games – allied to five in five during pre-season.
And unlike £8million-rated Rhodes, with 16 league goals from an overall total of 17 last season, he has already proved himself in English football’s second tier.
The former Swindon striker, who ended his first season in the Football League with 20 goals and arrived at Burnley with a tally of 17 goals in 23 appearances, was linked with a £4m move to the John Smith’s Stadium in the summer, as possible replaceme-nts for Rhodes were considered.
But with Rhodes remaining a Terrier, for the time being at least, Clarets’ assistant manager Jason Tindall is anticipating an exciting contest between two of the divisions prized predators, and for Austin to edge it.
“I think you’ll go a long way to find a striker with a better goal ratio than Charlie Austin,” said Eddie Howe’s number two.
“I think if you look at his goals to games record it’s fantastic. Whatever level he’s played at he’s scored an unbelievable amount of goals. He’s stepped up to the plate at different levels no problem.
“He’ll continue to score goals because that’s what he is – he’s a goalscorer – he’s got a great habit of being in the right place at the right time.
“He’s a great goalscorer, he’s a natural finisher.”
Which is why Tindall is surprised, but relieved, that Austin hasn’t been talked up more.
“With the money they’re talking about for Jordan Rhodes and the amount he’s scored, you’d like to think that Charlie Austin is certainly at that level if not beyond that level because he’s done it on a more consistent basis,” he said.
“His all-round game has been excellent for us, his hold-up play has been excellent.
“A lot of that is obviously confidence as well.
“He is playing with a great deal of confidence at the minute, a great deal of belief, and I think that’s showing in his performances and the goals that he’s scored.
“I think every time you see the ball come into the box you think that Charlie’s going to get on the end of it.
“When you’ve got Charlie in your team you always feel you’re going to score goals, and hope-fully he can continue his run of form and take that into tomorrow.”
The good news for Burnley is that Austin was on the scoresheet both times when the duo last locked horns three seasons ago, and his then club Swindon Town were unbeaten.
The 23-year-old scored in a 2-1 win at the County Ground, before scoring in a 2-2 draw in the return fixture in 2009/10.
Austin missed the first game the following season with a dislocated shoulder.
There wasn’t to be another showdown after Austin joined the Clarets the following January. Promotion for Huddersfield has prompted a reunion. And team-mate Sam Vokes is backing Austin to shine.
“He’s done very well, got a lot of goals and started this campaign very well. You want your strikers to be in the right place at the right time, and he usually is,” said the target man, although he remains conscious of Rhodes’ threat.
“He’s a great striker, scored a lot of goals last year, got another on Tuesday and will be a big player for them.
“We’ll have to be at our best to stop him.”
Austin was injured during Vokes’ first spell with the Clarets – on loan from Wolves last season – and the pair never played together.
Now his move from Molineux has been made permanent, the Welsh striker is looking to build partnerships with all of the forwards, after starting alongside Austin for the first time in the 3-2 defeat at Middlesbrough in midweek.
“It was good to work alongside him on Tuesday, I thought we worked well,” said Vokes. “We had a few chances each and Chas got his goal. He’s done well, I knew what a good striker he was from his days at Swindon, and we’re both Bournemouth lads.
“It takes games to form that bond, but I felt we did well.
“He’ll work hard for you as well, and if you put in the graft, you’ll reap the rewards.
“But we have the three of us competing for places as well,” added Vokes, who in the absence of Martin Paterson and long-term casualty Danny Ings was named in the line-up for the first time since returning to Turf Moor on a permanent deal.
“It’s tough to get in the team, but when you do, it’s a chance to prove yourself, score goals and play well.”