Former QPR and Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton has said his ex teammate Charlie Austin has all the abilities to be able to play like St James's Park hero Alan Shearer, if he tweaks his game a little, in an interview with the Shields Gazette.
Austin finished the season as the second-highest English scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals in 35 games, just three strikes behind Tottenham's Harry Kane, and has heel linked with a switch to the North-East by publications like the Mirror in recent weeks.
And it led Barton to declare the striker as a natural in front of the goal, with the 32-year-old highlighting the improvements the forward could make to become like England legend Shearer.
“We talked a lot about how he can improve and a lot of it was about playing as a lone striker,” the Shields quoted the midfielder, who has been linked to Leeds by the Yorkshire Post after his QPR release, as saying.
“I was talking to him and saying not many of the big teams play with two strikers so you’re going to have to get better at getting hold of the ball, setting, spinning.
“You remember the way Shearer used to do in the back end of his career – if the ball would come in he’d pin it and set it and then he’d spin and be in the box looking for his goals, and I think Charlie has that capability to be able to do that.
“It’s a part of his game he’s working on because the goalscoring ability is natural – he’s a natural goalscorer, he’ll always score goals because he’s got that knack."
Like Shearer, Austin has proven himself a powerful, physical frontman capable of leading the line with both brawn and skill. His strength in the air is also matched by a fierce shot, two more identifiable traits of Shearer's game. Though Barton has pinpointed Austin's hold-up play as something he can improve, at 25 he has plenty of time to work on that as long as he is banging the goals in.
If the former Burnley and Swindon man goes on to have half the career Shearer managed, he will likely be rivalling the likes of Kane and Wayne Rooney as one of the best England strikers around, but with so few forwards appearing that can genuinely be compared to the Toon legend, Newcastle should be urging their club to get the chequebook out as soon as possible.