Newcastle United have been offered Charlie Austin of Southampton, according to The Chronicle, after an alleged bust-up with Ralph Hasenhuttl has left him looking for a new club.
The Magpies are still looking for another striker despite the arrival of record signing Joelinton from Hoffenheim, having lost last season’s goalscoring pair of Salomón Rondón and Ayoze Pérez.
However, the club’s recruitment policy during Mike Ashley’s tenure has restricted the signing of more experienced players, preferring younger ones with a higher potential sell-on value. This could prove an obstacle in signing 30-year-old Austin, as it was often given as the reason why Rafael Benitez was unable to sign Rondón, then 28, on a permanent deal last summer.
Bargain basement or an offer they can’t refuse?
Due to the nature of Austin’s current place in the Southampton team, this deal would be nowhere near as costly as a permanent move for Rondón might have been. Left out of Southampton’s pre-season trips to Austria and Ireland and with only a year left on his contract, Austin could prove to be excellent value in today’s market, bringing experience and a few goals for minimum outlay. The only question many Newcastle fans may ask is, can they do better?
For a newly promoted team, signing Austin would surely be a no-brainer, but Newcastle have had two seasons of mid-table safety, albeit under a different manager, and taking an unwanted striker from a club in a similar position to themselves would not represent much of an improvement.
Nonetheless, they have lost three strikers from last season, as Josélu also departed for Aláves earlier this month, leaving the still-unproven Yoshinori Mutō and Dwight Gayle, returning from his loan spell at West Brom, as their only other strikers. Austin would offer something different to those two, a strong and combative presence in the box and an aerial threat to suit Matt Ritchie’s crossing ability.
The only drawback to any possible deal for Austin is his fitness. Plagued in the past by hamstring troubles and a lengthy layoff in 2017 for a shoulder complaint, in three seasons with the Saints he has amassed only 32 starts, instead mainly featuring off the bench, which led to him scoring 15 goals, according to WhoScored. Only 2 of those came in the 2018/19 season, despite him being relatively injury free, as Nathan Redmond was often deployed as a forward over him.
Usually, at 30, a player is in the prime of their career, but it may well be the case that Austin’s best days as a top-level striker are already behind him. Or does he just need another chance to prove himself at a club like Newcastle?
Mike Ashley flies in for a visit – sign of transfer activity ramping up?
Whatever Newcastle’s head of recruitment Steve Nickson or manager Steve Bruce may think about Austin, the man who holds the purse strings always has final say over any in-comings across the Tyne, and yesterday he surprised most people by visiting the training ground and cast his eye over new signing Joelinton.
The Chronicle report that he spoke to Steve Bruce about the new man and more potential signings, stating that he wishes to become more involved in day-to-day club affairs and it already seems him and Bruce are getting along well.
This visit is unlikely to instantly improve his standing with the Toon Army, as season tickets still remain unsold and plans to boycott the opening game of the season are ramping up, but may well go some way to ensuring they have a more competitive squad by the end of the transfer window.
Bruce spoke about the visit on BBC Newcastle:
“I met him (Mike Ashley) for the first time last week and he flew in today to come to meet myself and my new staff, who he has brought to the club.
"And of course to meet his new centre-forward and wish the lads the best of luck for the season ahead.
"He’s very positive towards the team, the new signing and my new staff – and that can only be a good thing.”