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SWINDON TOWN: Austin hopes to repay Town debt - by scoring a hat-trick
CHARLIE Austin returns to the club to which he owes a debt of gratitude this evening, but the striker plans to abandon sentimentality as he looks to fire his current side into round four of the Capital One Cup.
Swindon Town plucked Austin from the relative obscurity of Wessex League outfit Poole Town in September 2009, and in 16 fairytale months the Hungerford hitman made the now-famous transition from bricklayer to goalgetter as the Robins stormed to the League One play-off final.
In all, the 23-year-old managed 37 goals in 65 appearances before Burnley’s £1.2million approach in January 2011.
Despite only being a part of the County Ground setup for just over a season, Austin quickly established hero status amongst the fans for a series of tireless performances and utterly clinical finishes.
While some begrudged his switch to Turf Moor, it was the natural progression of a talented centre forward who seems destined for the top tier in the not-so-distant future.
Unsurprisingly, Austin fondly remembers his time with Swindon - where only a dastardly divot denied him a famous goal at Wembley in his first season as a pro - but when he arrives in SN1 tonight his focus will be entirely on helping the Clarets into the last 16 of the competition.
"It was hard to leave at the time but it ended up being the right decision,” he said.
"Unfortunately I then ended up getting injured and doing my shoulder, and I was out for the rest of the season.
"If I did that at Swindon and things went the way they did and Swindon got relegated, I would have been a League Two player and not a Championship player. In my first season as a Championship player I scored 16 league goals.
"You can say I owe Swindon, and obviously I’m grateful to them.
"But I took my chance and I got sold from there and moved to Burnley Football Club. Now I’m a Burnley player and I’ve got a job to do.
"It will be special, but I’d like to score two or three against them and put Burnley into the next round.
"Every time I go on to the pitch at the moment I feel confident enough to put the ball in the net and score, so this will be no different.”
Austin has backed Town, a completely different entity under Paolo Di Canio to that which he left 18 months ago, to secure back-to-back promotions and a place in the Championship this season.
However, he is convinced that he and his Burnley teammates have enough quality to stop expert giant-killers Swindon from knocking another higher-level team out of the competition.
"It will be a tough game, there’s been a big change-around there,” he said. "They’re a massive club and they’ll be up there again in League One.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if next year they are a Championship club. That’s what they are aiming for.
"There are only three players left from when I was there, so to be honest I’ll be going there and it will be more the background staff if anything.
"But I’ve got to go there regardless of if I’m playing against friends and do a job for Burnley.
"I’d like to think I’d get a good reception, it would be nice. But regardless of what reception I get, as a professional you try to block that out and do your stuff on the pitch.”
Having already scored nine times this season Austin is targeting double figures in double quick time with a goal tonight.
The frontman has only failed to find the net in two of his eight appearances so far this term, and Swindon will have to be on top of their game to keep him frustrated.
"When I was at Swindon I got injured then I got on a run after I was out for five weeks,” he said. "So I think this would be the quickest if I was lucky enough to get there.
"I’ve got to thank the lads for their service to me and their all-round game. It’s not just me.”