CHRIS DUNLAVY

Our re­porter con­trasts the be­hav­iour of Char­lie Austin and Ra­heem Ster­ling

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

POOR Ra­heem Ster­ling. The Man City moneygrab­ber has taken plenty of stick for his move to the Eti­had this sum­mer but, af­ter see­ing his old gaff up for sale on Right­move, it’s clear he was liv­ing on the bread­line.

For starters, the £1.5m South­port pad had only four bed­rooms and one wasn’t even en suite. And how could any­one strug­gle by with half a bas­ket­ball court, let alone one in­door swimming pool? It’s a mir­a­cle the geezer didn’t spend his Wed­nes­days busk­ing out­side Cav­ern Walks.

Viewed in this light, it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able that Ster­ling told Liver­pool he “wasn’t in the right frame of mind” to face Stoke on the fi­nal day of last sea­son.

Un­palat­able

Nor that he wasn’t par­tic­u­larly keen – de­spite be­ing un­der con­tract – to take any part in pre-sea­son train­ing.

Ex­cept, of course, it isn’t. Ster­ling’s con­duct this sum­mer was pa­thetic, child­ish and un­pro­fes­sional. Ask­ing to leave is un­palat­able but fair. Pulling a hissy fit and re­fus­ing to play, in a bid to force a move, is a flat-out be­trayal.

It reeks of a spoilt kid who has lost touch with his roots, who has failed to ap­pre­ci­ate his wealth and priv­i­lege. Of a 19-year-old hung out to dry by his ad­vis­ers.

Lis­ten to the cyn­ics and they tell you it’s sim­ply part of the game, a nec­es­sar­ily self­ish act in an in­trin­si­cally self­ish busi­ness.

History is lit­tered with de­press­ing ex­am­ples of those who’ve huffed their way to a big­ger con­tract or ‘bet­ter’ club – in­clud­ing Eng­land cap­tain Wayne Rooney and Real Madrid’s world record sign­ing Gareth Bale, who de­lib­er­ately skipped Spurs train­ing to make his in­ten­tions clear.

I say that’s self-serv­ing non­sense. Be­cause, 250 miles down the road at Queens Park Rangers, Char­lie Austin is show­ing how it should be done.

With 18 goals in 36 Premier League games last sea­son, there’s no way the 26-year-old should be back in the Champi- on­ship. But, for some rea­son – and no­body seems quite sure what – none of his suit­ors seems will­ing to pay the £15m ask­ing price.

Some say it’s the history of shoul­der dis­lo­ca­tions. Oth­ers, no­tably West Ham co-chair­man David Gold, have claimed his knee lig­a­ments are non-ex­is­tent. In re­al­ity, both fac­tors are more likely ten­u­ous bar­gain­ing tools than gen­uine con­cerns.

Nev­er­the­less, Austin could easily have kicked up a stink. Re­fused to train, re­fused to play, leaked a come-and­get-me plea through his agent. Any of those tac­tics might have forced Rangers to lower their per­fectly rea­son­able val­u­a­tion. But Austin didn’t. He said he’d leave the trans­fer shenani­gans to the club and his agent, then get on with what he’s paid to do – score goals for QPR. That’s ex­actly what he’s done.

Austin has seen life out­side the Premier­ship bub­ble. He knows how hard it is to get up at 5am and build walls for a liv­ing, to play on the parks for ex­penses and beer money. He ap­pre­ci­ates how lucky he is to be liv­ing ev­ery kid’s dream.

Just this week, Gold pub­licly ques­tioned Austin’s tal­ent and fit­ness. The blunt, di­rect re­sponse was typ­i­cal of a man who doesn’t hide be­hind agents or bland ba­nal­i­ties. Typ­i­cal of a man who, last sea­son, stood on the County Ground ter­races to watch for­mer club Swin­don in the play­offs, and last week paid to watch his old Non­League clubs Hunger­ford and Poole Town do bat­tle in the South­ern League.

Un­for­tu­nately, Austin’s at­ti­tude is only likely to raise his value. A bloke like that is worth ten petty prima don­nas.

But when – and it surely is when – he does go, at least Austin can leave through the front door with his head held high. Not out the back, whinge­ing like a spoilt brat.

HANDS TIED: Neil Len­non

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