Football

From bricklayer to big player

Five years ago, Queens Park Rangers forward Charlie Austin was working as a bricklayer in the day and earned only £80 ($165) per match playing football for minor league side Poole Town.

It was a world away from the glamour of the English Premiership where a hat-trick on Saturday rescued his relegation-threatened side, took his tally for the season to 11 league goals and prompted calls for him to be rewarded with an England call-up.

Only Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Chelsea's Diego Costa - two of the game's most high-profile talents - have now scored more in the Premier League than Austin this season after his latest contribution.

QPR looked down and out after going 0-2 down to West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road, before Austin took it upon himself to turn the game in their favour with three goals that delivered a priceless 3-2 victory.

Having begun his career working in some of football's most unheralded outposts, which also included Kintbury Rovers and Hungerford Town, Austin's is a tale that could be taken straight from the annuals of the finest comic book striker.

"It's a great story for any young lad who watches or plays football," QPR boss Harry Redknapp said after the win over West Brom.

"There's a young lad there who has struggled in the non-leagues for years, then suddenly gets a break and comes into league football and now he is playing in the Premier League.

"It is 'Roy of the Rovers' stuff. It is fantastic for him, because he is a great lad and you could not wish it to happen to a better boy."

Austin's combative approach has perhaps unfairly seen him tagged as a traditional English centre forward, which hints disparagingly that he belongs to a previous generation.

Yet the 25-year-old has managed to find the net against Manchester City and Chelsea as well as against many of QPR's relegation rivals, all for a team that have been struggling for form, consistency and points.

Many of QPR's fellow strugglers would love to have a player finding the net as regularly as Austin, who joined QPR from Burnley for 
£4 million last year.

"He is a very good player and he is in great form at the moment and, obviously, he was a real handful for us," West Brom boss Alan Irvine added.

- Reuters.


FROM BUILDING SITE TO THE BIG TIME 

STUART PEARCE

— The ex-England captain worked as an electrician and plumber for five years at Wealdstone, where he also played non-league football, before joining Coventry City for £30,000 in 1983.

IAN WRIGHT

— Shortly before his 22nd birthday during a spell at Dulwich Hamlet, Wright quit his job as a plasterer and joined Crystal Palace, where he went on to become an England international.