As reported by The Daily Echo, Southampton are set to be boosted in their fight against relegation by the return of striker Charlie Austin, who could return as early as this weekend’s match away to West Ham United.
Austin has been out of action for Saints since December with a hamstring injury, a period which has seen Southampton drawn into a fierce relegation battle at the bottom of the English Premier League table.
Now though, the 28-year-old is set to return to Mark Hughes’ squad, with the Southampton manager revealing he is very close to match fitness.
As quoted by The Daily Echo, Hughes said:
We need to get him on the pitch but he’s done some good work and we are pleased with where he is. Clearly if he’s not available this weekend we would like to think he is certainly involved with the games from then on.
He’s very close, we are pleased with where he is and he is pleased and assured in his own mind in being ready to go.
He’s very keen to be involved.
Will Austin be the difference between Saints staying up and going down?
Given the length of time out, it seems more likely he’ll appear from the bench against West Ham this weekend, if at all.
However, given he is still Saints’ top scorer this season with six goals, it’s fair to say he can still play a big role in determining the result of not just this match, but what division the St Mary’s side will be playing in next season.
He’s a proven, reliable goalscorer at Premier League level and goals are something Southampton have lacked all season. Even with talented players in the final third, they’ve lack that clinical instinct that a player like Austin provides.
His return couldn’t be coming at a more perfect time and West Ham will be wary of seeing him named tomorrow either in the starting eleven or on the substitute’s bench.
Tomorrow is a huge match for both sides and could be Saints’ best chance of finding crucial goals. The Hammers have lost by a three-goal margin in their last three matches and the last thing they need is a returning striker like Austin looking to prove himself.