A £4m bargain! Man who unearthed West Brom's Charlie Austin
HE IS the man Albion fans are looking to for goals following his £4million move from Southampton.
But Charlie Austin would have been cheap if West Brom had paid double that, according to the man who helped unearth his talent.
Ken Ryder was a scout for Swindon when he ‘stumbled’ across Austin playing for Poole Town exactly 10 years ago.
The talent spotter now works for Sheffield Wednesday identifying potential stars of the future.
Austin, though, remains one of his greatest discoveries – and the story how he gave the striker his big break is a fascinating one.
“At the time, I was the chief scout at Swindon who had just come out of administration and didn’t have a lot of money,” Ryder said. “I was scrolling through a list of non-league scorers and Charlie was on that list.
“I went to watch him, but I paid for my ticket because that is how I like to work.
“And he scored four goals, he was a different class. His talent was clear straight away.
“On the Saturday, Poole were playing Canvey Island so I sent another scout to that game.
“But I didn’t tell him who he was watching, I just said go and have a look.
“I hate sending scouts to games without a specific target, but Charlie was special.
“The scout rang me after the game and said: ‘You so-and-so, it’s the number nine isn’t it? He’s scored four goals again.”
Ryder knew at that point he had to act.
“I spoke to Poole, they are a very well run club and had a big game coming up.” he continued. “We agreed they would tell Charlie about our interest after that match and would pass on my phone number.
“At 5.10pm the following Saturday, my phone rang and it was Charlie. And I wasn’t going to wait, I got him straight in for a trial on the Monday.”
Austin had been interesting Eddie Howe at Bournemouth at the time.
But the Cherries had been placed under a transfer embargo.
And that meant he joined Swindon – who were managed by Danny Wilson – for just £5,000.
“We played Charlie in reserve games against Swansea and Reading and he scored goals in both of them.” Ryder continued. “The plan was to nurture him into professional football. But Danny Wilson was having a tough time.
“We went to do a team assessment on Bristol Rovers and he told me he wanted to put Charlie in.
“He scored on his full debut away at Carlisle.
“He then scored again on his home debut three days later against Huddersfield.
“In no time he went to being the first name on the team sheet.”
After netting 32 league goals for Swindon, Austin was sold to Burnley for £1.8million.
He has since been prolific for the Clarets, QPR and Southampton.
And Ryder can’t believe Albion managed to bring him in for £4million.
“£4million is cheap at half the price,” he said. “The one thing I have always said about Charlie is that he will always score goals.
“I have seen some comments from people that he has lost his pace. But he’s never been blessed with pace.
“His pace is in his head and you don’t lose that.
“If you put a cross into the box, nine times out of 10 Charlie will be in the right place to get on the end of it.
“That is his gift.
“I’ll never forget the goal he scored for Southampton against Man United at Old Trafford.
“He went in and out, in and out. But he was only aiming for one spot.
“And when the ball came in he buried it – that is classic Charlie Austin.
“You cannot teach that knack of knowing where to be. He will absolutely score goals for Albion.”
Away from the spotlight of a match day, Ryder says Austin is an outstanding professional.
“He is a smashing lad,” Ryder added. “He comes from a very good family. And he appreciates how far he has come.
“He was working as a hod carrier carrying bricks, I think, when we spotted him.
“And he was so eager to learn, he would always train well.
“I’ve followed his career ever since he left Swindon.
“As soon as the games finish, the first thing I do is see if he played and if he scored. I’ve got no doubt they’ll be many times I’ll have a look and he’ll have scored for Albion.”