CLARETS boss Eddie Howe feels striker Charlie Austin has nothing to prove against the club who released him as a youngster.
The seven-goal hitman spent five years as a schoolboy with Reading, tomorrow’s visitors to Turf Moor, but, a late developer physically, he was allowed to leave as he was considered to be “too small”.
He dropped into non-league, scoring goals for fun with Thatcham Town, Kintbury Rangers, Hungerford Town and Poole Town, but after getting his break with Swindon, where he hit 37 goals in 65 appearances, he earned a £1.2m move to Burnley.
And he has hit the ground running this term, netting seven times in 12 appearances.
His former youth team-mate Alex Pearce is wary of his threat, but, almost damning with faint praise, said: “He didn’t used to do much during the game, but he always used to find the net and is proving to this day that he has that knack.
“I spoke about him to Sean Morrison, who was with him at Swindon, and Sean just said that he won’t do anything the whole game, but will score.
“Everyone will say ‘you played rubbish today, but you scored’.
“They’re the ones you have to watch, because if you give them a chance they will tuck it away.”
Howe feels Austin is more than just a goalscorer.
He said: “People have their opinions, and that’s fine, but Charlie doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody. His goalscoring record does that for him.
“Hopefully he’ll perform well against Reading and continue his goalscoring form.
“People forget he’s young and improving all the time, his all-round game has improved since he joined us, and will continue to improve.
“One thing you don’t want to take away from him is his ability to score goals – it’s the hardest thing to do in football, and his record at whatever level he’s played at has been fantastic.”
And Howe believes Austin won’t be any more determined to score than usual.
He said: “He’s quite laid back about the career he’s had, but he’s eager and hungry to perform well in every game he plays – he sees every game as an opportunity to score a goal.
“He has that mentality, and I don’t think it particularly matters who he plays against, he just wants to score.
“He’s ambitious, keen to do well and works extremely hard every single day.
“His attitude has been spot on, and that will be the key to him improving.”
Like Austin, Marvin Bartley was also released by the Royals, his hometown club, and Howe added: “I just hope they play their natural games because they’ve been excellent for us.
“But I don’t think they have anything to prove. They’re playing at a good standard, and that’s what happens in football, you get a disappointment, and it’s how you react to that.
“Both lads have shown if you respond the right way, get your head down and work hard, good things can happen to you.
“I’m sure the people at Reading wish both lads well.
“We all have to make decisions on players and some you get right, some you get wrong.
“Any player I’ve let go, I only wish them well and hope they prove me wrong, because you want everyone within your contact to do well in the game.
“It’s about having that strength of character to come back and fight and say ‘I’m going to make sure you regret that decision.”
Burnley are again likely to be without Michael Duff (knee) and Brian Jensen (groin), and Howe has a couple of other injury worries.
He said: “We’ve had two or three people who’ve missed days, although I’d rather keep them under wraps, but fingers crossed they’ll come through.
“Duffo and Brian aren’t far away – they’re in the last stages of their rehab, they’ve had little setbacks, but nothing to worry about.
“They’re taking a little longer than anticipated, but hopefully we’ll have them back soon.”
However, he doesn’t anticipate any new faces before the game.
He said: “There’s nothing happening as we speak, but there are a couple in the background which we’re keeping a very close eye on.
“I don’t think anything will happen before the weekend.”