Southampton striker Charlie Austin still has “every chance” of forcing his way into England’s Euro 2016 squad, according to Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe.
Cherries manager Howe hailed Saints’ £4million January capture of Austin from QPR as “good business”, admitting he still rues failing to sign the former bricklayer back in 2009.
Austin hit 18 Premier League goals despite QPR suffering relegation last term, and even edged into Roy Hodgson’s England squad briefly in May 2015.
The 26-year-old scored on his Southampton debut in the 1-0 win at Manchester United on January 23, and now long-term admirer Howe has tipped him to fire the goals to prove his England credentials.
“I still think he’s young enough for England, and I still think the end of this season could be really important for him,” said Howe, wary of Austin’s influence when Bournemouth host Southampton in Tuesday’s Premier League action.
“England aren’t blessed with a huge array of strikers to pick from and I still think he’s got every chance to get to the Euros.
“So the end of the season’s going to be important for him.
“It could possibly turn out to be a timely move. From his perspective he’s got to stay fit and bang some goals in.”
Only a transfer embargo denied Howe signing Austin for Bournemouth in League Two following a pre-season trial back in 2009.
The natural poacher’s 46 goals in 46 games for neighbours Poole Town the previous campaign had caught Howe’s eye, and the Bournemouth boss later signed Austin in his stint as Burnley manager.
Howe revealed one crisp volleyed finish from Austin in Bournemouth training still remains fresh in his memory, some seven years on.
“It’s good business for Southampton, they’ve done well,” said Howe.
“We were frustrated here many years ago when we tried to sign him and we were embargoed.
“But then I was fortunate enough to take him to Burnley.
“He was outstanding and scored a lot of goals there.
“Charlie is someone we admire greatly and he’s a real goalscorer.
“So I think he’ll do very well for Saints, supplemented by a very good squad around him and a team that will play to his strengths.
“To step through the levels, first of all you’ve got to be good enough, so you’ve got to be technically able.
“Now Charlie’s been able to do that, and I think he’s improved and I think he’s had a good step.
“He hasn’t done it in one jump, it’s been a gradual process from Poole Town to Swindon to where he is now.
“So he’s done it gradually but he seems to have taken every step and every raise in the level in his stride, and that’s been a real factor.
“And I think mentally you need to be strong enough to handle the rise, with the rise comes more exposure and more money.
“Charlie’s been very level-headed and he’s been able to keep his motivation levels very high.
“He just has an ability to score. That was the first thing that struck me.
“We did a small-sided game, he’d just come to us from Poole Town on trial, and I remember him hitting this volley into the bottom corner without even blinking.
“He was playing against good players who had done really well in League Two.
“And immediately you take real notice that this boy’s got something.
“From that moment he never changed, he still had the ability to find the net.”
Howe will hand Lewis Grabban a late fitness test ahead of hosting Saints on Tuesday, the striker making “good progress” in fighting to beat a groin strain.
Howe will make a late decision on whether to start Max Gradel given his phased recovery from long-term knee trouble, while Junior Stanislas should miss out with a hamstring problem.