LONDON • One of the mysteries of the English season so far has been Charlie Austin lurking in the second tier of English football with several Premier League clubs crying out for a reliable goal-scorer.
He scored 18 top-flight goals last season, no mean feat considering he was part of a Queens Park Rangers side that was relegated.
Yet when the pre-season transfer dealing was concluded in September, he stayed put.
The 26-year-old continued to score regularly in the Championship this season and was rewarded with a move to Southampton last week for a fee of £4 million (S$8.16 million).
When he marked his debut with Southampton's winner at Manchester United on Saturday, eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, the fee looked like one of the best pieces of business this season.
As United's scoring woes continued - they have failed to score in the first half of their last 11 home matches - disgruntled fans leaving Old Trafford must have wondered why Austin had not been offered to manager Louis van Gaal.
"Whenever I go on the pitch, I always think, 'Be ready, a chance will come.' Luckily enough, a chance did come and I put it away," Austin, whose 87th-minute header sealed the 1-0 win, told Southampton's website.
"A January move is tough for anybody, you have to hit the ground running. Luckily, I've got off the zero already."
It took just two touches for him to find the net as Southampton won back-to-back games at Old Trafford for the first time since 1969.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said: "It's fantastic for Charlie. A great debut for him personally, but the whole team worked together.
"Our organisation was good, we were very compact, we had good pressing. We showed spirit today. It was an amazing result for the second time here."
He added that he had encouraged Austin to simply do his stuff by saying before sending him on: "OK, go to the box and make a good header and it's 1-0."
The free kick duly arrived, straight to his head, and Austin nodded unerringly home. So why did other clubs not go for him?
"Ask them," said the beaming Koeman. "That's the reason we signed Charlie Austin - because he creates numbers of goals."
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON