Charlie Austin: QPR striker is a snip at £15m - Jermaine Jenas
I was being given some stick on Twitter for the shirt I wore on Match of the Day last weekend and QPR striker Charlie Austin jumped on and got involved, even though he has absolutely no room to talk.
He was apologising privately by text and telling me he loves me at the same time as abusing me in public, but his gear is rascal - absolutely terrible - so there was no way I was taking that kind of criticism from him!
But although his fashion sense is dodgy, as a footballer he is someone I rate extremely highly and know very well after playing alongside him for QPR.
Charlie is only 26 and, following QPR's relegation, seems to have been linked with half of the Premier League over the summer but he is still at Loftus Road for now.
They are holding out for £15m for him but when you think about how well he did for a struggling side last season, plus the going rate for strikers in today's market, I think he is a snip at that price.
|Premier League top scorers 2014-15|
|1. Sergio Aguero||Man City||26|
|2. Harry Kane||Tottenham||21|
|3. Diego Costa||Chelsea||20|
|4. Charlie Austin||QPR||18|
|5. Alexis Sanchez||Arsenal||16|
And when you consider the number of top-flight clubs who need a frontman, I am even more surprised that no-one has moved for him yet.
I was expecting to be talking to him about watching him on MOTD again this season, not the other way round.
'He is just obsessed with scoring goals'
I actually texted Charlie first on Saturday, after he had scored his first goal of the Championship season for QPR against Cardiff.
I just wrote "nice to see you back mate, that was one hell of a finish" to wind him up because the ball had just ricocheted in off his belly.
His response was "look for the score in Sunday's papers - all it will say is Austin, 56 min".
That sums him up because he is just obsessed with scoring goals and I have not come across many strikers in my career who are as single-minded as him in that respect.
At Tottenham I played with Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, both brilliant players who knew where the back of the net was, but who were more concerned with their all-round game.
If Keano went through the whole game and scored but was not seen for the rest of the 90 minutes he would be pretty upset with himself and Berbo was similar.
They were both players who wanted to be fully involved with everything that was going on during the match, whereas Charlie is more like Darren Bent or Jermain Defoe in that scoring is what interests him.
He is kind of like a throwback because not many forwards make the runs he makes anymore - they would rather be waiting on the edge of the area for a cut-back for a nice finish.
Charlie is more like an old-school English striker who is prepared to hurt himself to score goals.
He gets across defenders and the goalkeeper to get on the end of balls into the area like Alan Shearer did when I played with him at Newcastle.
'His work-rate and fitness levels are phenomenal'
Charlie is a fantastic finisher but from playing and training with him I know there is a lot more to his game than just that.
There seems to be a perception that he does not do much outside the box but a lot of that is to do with how QPR used him last season.
They used Bobby Zamora as the target man and looked for Charlie to just get on the end of things in the area and I think they got the best out of him by doing that.
|Charlie Austin in the Premier League 2014-15|
|Brackets show ranking for forwards||Stats = Opta|
|Games: 35/38||Minutes played: 3,069/3,420|
|Goals: 18 (4th)||Assists: 5 (=5th)|
|Total shots: 79 (=4th)||Shooting accuracy: 67% (2nd)|
|Shot conversion rate: 23% (12th)||Mins/goal: 170.5 (11th)|
|Distance covered: 331.9km (5th)||Sprints: 1,721 (6th)|
He still covered a lot of ground, and he will always work hard. I played up front with him for a couple of games in the 2013-14 season and his work-rate and fitness levels were phenomenal. He was constantly harassing and closing down defenders.
The performance I remember best is when we won the 2014 Championship play-off final after getting a man sent off against Derby.
Charlie played on the left wing for the last half hour, grafting and basically doing whatever it took to get the victory for the team.
So, why has no-one signed him yet?
West Ham chairman David Sullivan said on Thursday that he had concerns about Charlie's knee but he has proved in his two years at Loftus Road that he is absolutely fine.
He started 35 league games out of 38 last season and was at the absolute top of his game for the whole campaign, so it cannot be a problem - and based on what I saw of him in matches and day-to-day in training when I was at QPR it was not an issue at all.
I think the reason he has not been snapped up yet is that the clubs interested in him are thinking that his price might come down as we get closer to the end of the transfer window.
I am not sure that will happen. QPR manager Chris Ramsey has said that they need the money from selling Austin to rebuild, but he is also adamant they want £15m for him, and I can understand why.
When you see Ross McCormack joining Fulham for £11m and Blackburn turning down a £12m bid from Middlesbrough for Jordan Rhodes when neither player has even played in the Premier League, let alone scored 18 goals in a season, then it is a fair valuation from QPR's perspective - even if it won't help Charlie.
He got into the England set-up at end of last season but to stay there and make the plane to Euro 2016 he has to be playing in the Premier League.
Is he good enough? Without question.
If he went to either of those clubs it would raise a few eyebrows because he is not a big name but when you see Chelsea sign someone like Radamel Falcao instead, part of me thinks they might have been better off turning to Charlie.
For Chelsea or United, £15m is not a lot. They know Austin can score in the Premier League and he is young, fit and hungry so why not say to him "come and be our number two striker" who they can bring on when they need a goal?
Austin is no big-time Charlie
Whatever happens next, Charlie will not change.
We are mates and I know how hard he has worked to get from playing for Poole Town in the Wessex League in 2009 to where he is at now.
|Charlie Austin's professional career record (all comps)|
|QPR (2013- )||76||40|
He earned his chance at the highest level and proved himself there. I think he deserves to stay there, and that is probably how he feels too.
In the past I have seen players in a similar situation basically down tools until they get the move they want. As bad as it sounds, it usually works because the club thinks "well we are not getting anything out of him, we might as well sell".
So it is a testament to Charlie's character that he has got more about him than going down that route. Instead he has carried on doing what he is paid to do.
I don't think that is down to him starting out late in the professional game, or coming through the lower leagues. It is just the way he is, how he was brought up and the values that were engrained in him.
He is very down to earth and just constantly wants to improve himself and I think that is why, when you look at his career, he has done well wherever he has gone.
That attitude is another reason I think he is worth £15m - hopefully other clubs will notice it, as well as all those goals he has scored.