HAT-TRICK hero Charlie Austin hopes to follow Jay Rodriguez’s lead and kick on next season.
Last season, Rodriguez was joint-top scorer for the Clarets as he netted 15 goals, alongside Chris Eagles.
But the Burnley-born forward has enhanced his reputation this term, finding the net 21 times so far.
Austin’s first senior treble at Portsmouth on Saturday took him to 14 in his first full Championship campaign, and he aims to beat that 20-goal barrier next season and help inspire a promotion bid.
He said: “I’ve got 14 now, and if I can get any more this season, it’s a bonus. But I’ll take my performances so far this season, some have been below par, but you’re not going to perform every game.
“I don’t see why you won’t see the best of me next season, this is my first full year in the Championship and hopefully I can really push on next season.
“I’ve worked hard and worked well with Jay – I’ve learned a lot from him.
“He scored 15 last season and has taken it on this season.
“But I’d back myself every time I’m on the pitch to score goals, when the ball comes in the 18-yard box, like here.
“I’m never scoring from 25-30 yards out, but inside the 18-yard box, I back myself to score.”
While Austin feels capable of pushing on next season, he believes the team can as well, and feels a target of finishing the campaign unbeaten will put the Clarets in good stead.
After the 2-2 draw with West Ham, Burnley earned their biggest away win in almost 14 years at Portsmouth, and, with seven games remaining, Birmingham are the visitors to Turf Moor tonight.
Austin said: “We’ve got seven games to go and are looking ahead to next season, but we don’t want to lose any games now. If we can go unbeaten, we can push on next year.
“It’s our aim, we’ll give it a good go next season and I don’t see why we can’t be fighting for promotion.”
The former Swindon striker passed a half-century of goals in professional football in less than three full seasons since moving from non-league Poole Town, and a first hat-trick was a dream come true.
He said: “I’m over the moon. I’ve got a couple of braces, but didn’t think I’d ever get a hat-trick.
“If Josh McQuoid didn’t square it to me, I’d have told him about it in the changing rooms afterwards!”
And he hopes to have earned a place back in the starting line-up after being in and out of the side of late.
Martin Paterson picked up another hamstring injury at Fratton Park, while Rodriguez is likely to be out for another couple of weeks with his groin problem.
Austin admitted: “It’s been frustrating, but what can I do? There’s good players here, you have to bide your time.
“I think I won nine out of 10 headers against Portsmouth and was quite pleased with my performance. The goals are an added bonus.”