Charlie Austin: Coming back to QPR made me happy again - and I have got plenty left to give

Charlie Austin on his Queens Park Rangers return: "There were other options for me this summer, but this was the only club I really wanted to sign for. It's one that was close to my heart, my family's heart, I feel like I'm part of the football club."

Charlie Austin is returning home to QPR, the club where he has enjoyed the most successful spell of his career

Given Charlie Austin's reputation and pedigree, he could have probably had his pick of the Championship this summer when his West Brom contract expired.

The natural-born finisher, who barely a decade ago was still working full-time as a bricklayer, does not have much to prove to anyone, least of all himself. He has already ended one campaign as the second-highest English Premier League scorer behind Harry Kane. Across his 12 professional seasons, he has scored double figures in eight, and 20 goals in three.

His impressive Premier League haul came in a QPR shirt, during a spell he remembers most fondly across his career, and where he first reached the promised land of the top flight. In three goal-laden years at Loftus Road, now renamed the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Austin finished only two shy of reaching a half-century for the Rs, and burst through that milestone during a half-season loan from West Brom last season.

The spell re-ignited something in him that had been lost after being cast to the sidelines following the Baggies' promotion to the Premier League last year. It convinced him to return home, if you will, to Shepherd's Bush.

Charlie Austin scored eight goals from an xG of just 6.15 during his loan spell at QPR last season
Image: Austin scored eight goals from an xG of just 6.15 during his loan spell at QPR last season

"When the opportunity was first given to me in January, I jumped at it," he told Sky Sports ahead of QPR's opening game with Millwall this weekend. "I needed to make things happen for me on and off the pitch. I needed to be happy again, and QPR's the happiest I've been throughout my career.

"Last season at West Brom, I remember the Friday before our first away game last season at Everton, the coach pulled me and said I wasn't in the squad. It was the first time in my career I'd been left out of a squad altogether without being injured and it cut me a little bit. That was it for the next three months, but I busted myself in training, so that if a move came about in January I was ready.

"There were other options for me this summer, but this was the only club I really wanted to sign for. It's one that was close to my heart, my family's heart, I feel like I'm part of the football club and was delighted to get the deal done and team up with this squad again and under the management of Mark Warburton.

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"He didn't have to sell the club to me either time, he just wanted to know if I still had the fire in my belly. You see plenty of players come down from the Premier League and not have it there, but I was 31, I wanted to score plenty more goals."

He has done that already. The Rs were fifth bottom and without a win in 10 games when Austin returned to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on January 9.

Eight goals in 21 games later, coupled with some other astute loan arrivals including Stefan Johansen, who has also since joined permanently, QPR had risen to ninth, their highest finish since they were last promoted in 2014.

"It was a lift, to move the dark cloud off the team that wasn't really performing, and just needed a bit of a push," he said. "Four of us signed on loan, and just put a bit of belief into the lads, and told them it needed a team effort. You can do great things if you all buy into the same idea. We didn't achieve anything, of course, but it was a good second half of the season with plenty of belief going forward.

"As much as my goals played a part, I tried to help the lads off the pitch, the things people don't see. I was coming in and was just honest. They were in a situation where there were no need for any punches to be pulled, it was about just telling the truth - and it worked.

"We've got the four lads who were in on loan, and added players around them. There's a good mix of experience and younger players, and I think having players like myself and Stef in the team gives everyone a boost."

I feel like I'm part of the football club and was delighted to get the deal done and team up with this squad again and under the management of Mark Warburton.
Charlie Austin on his QPR return

Scoring goals is not the only thing that makes Austin happy, although he remembers their 2014/15 season, when he recorded that sensational goalscoring return while the club finished bottom of the Premier League, rather more fondly than most QPR fans.

Much like fellow arrival Johansen, the two-time Championship promotion winner has been there and done it. Few are talking about QPR for a Premier League return this season, but had 2020/21 started the day Austin walked through the door, they would have finished third - behind only promoted Watford and Norwich.

"I've been there before, we know what it takes - but on the flip side, I know this league is tough," he said. "You can't take anything for granted, it's a long 46 games - it can be a 50-game season. I know people have mentioned how well we did in the second half of the season, but ultimately we have to just go about our own business and build on that.

"Everyone needs to delve into each other's knowledge of what it takes to win, how to change things up if it's not going well. Having that experience in the dressing room will put us in good stead, because we've got a good group.

QPR summer signings

Player Club
Jordy de Wijs Hull
Sam Field West Brom
Charlie Austin West Brom
Andre Dozzell Ipswich
Jordan Archer Middlesbrough
Jimmy Dunne Burnley
Stefan Johansen Fulham
Moses Odubajo Sheff Wed

"I'm happy with the way my body is at the moment, I'm only 32 and I've got plenty of goals left in me to score. Everyone thinks I've been around for ages, like I'm 34, or 35, but I've only just turned 32 as well. Hopefully I can continue to keep playing, perform, and enjoy my football and score plenty of goals.

"My knack's in the width of the box, scoring goals. I need players around me, and at QPR we've got a bundle of them. It's my job just to get into those positions, which I have done throughout my career."

This is not the same promotion-bound QPR that Austin joined as a 24-year-old for £3m, when their wage bill increased from a squad including Rob Green, Niko Krancjar, Richard Dunne and Yossi Benayoun.

But sometimes, a strong dressing room can be worth as much as any big-name signings. Now that team spirit has given Austin his buzz back and convinced him to stay, perhaps he can repay the favour - and earn one more Premier League promotion on his CV.

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