Newcastle United target Charlie Austin is yet to make his mind up over where he will be playing next season.
That’s according to friend and former striker partner Billy Paynter, who has been texting the 25-year-old in a bid to find out who the highly sought-after forward will be signing for.
Paynter and QPR striker Austin go back a long way, having formed a deadly partnership during a prolific spell at Swindon Town.
And Paynter – who has joined Ronnie Moore’s Hartlepool United – believes his friend was always destined for the top.
Newcastle are keen to sign Austin, whose 18 goals in the top flight last season, despite seeing his side being relegated, saw him included in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for their internationals last month.
But with a host of other sides also chasing Austin, Toon boss Steve McClaren faces stiff competition for the 6ft 2in striker’s services.
“I knew back then that Charlie had the potential to play in the Premier League,” revealed Paynter.
“He was a natural finisher.
“Everything is instinct with him and if the ball is coming into his feet then he is always looking to get a shot off, which always catches the keeper off guard and I’m not surprised he has gone on to better things.
“We still keep in touch and we speak every now and again and I wish him all the best.
“I am texting him to see where he is moving to, or if he is moving, but he isn’t giving anything anyway!
“There are a few teams that have been sniffing around, Newcastle, West Ham and I’m sure QPR will want to try and keep him. But he doesn’t know where he is going yet.”
Austin, who turns 26 on Sunday, was a raw 19-year-old playing non-league for Poole before he was unearthed by Geordie talent scout Ken Ryder, who took him to Swindon Town.
It was there that he struck up a goalden partnership with Paynter, now 30, who has recently moved to play his football in the North East after joining League Two Pools.
Austin’s spell at Swindon - were he netted 31 goals in 54 appearances - was the start of a remarkable rise for the forward.
A £2m move to Burnley followed, before Queens Park Rangers boss Harry Redknapp took him to Loftus Road who he helped fire to the Premier League.
Reflecting on their time together at Swindon, Paynter said the pair felt unstoppable.
“Swindon was my most prolific spell in football and I had a good partnership with Charlie Austin,” added Paynter.
“It was one of those spells where every time I was going out on the pitch I felt like I was going to score.
“I was happy and it was a comfortable environment for me.”