Aussies Abroad: Austin draws Bale comparison

Mitchell Austin may not be a household name but he's working his way up, through non-league football in the UK.

He takes notes when watching Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, is mates with Manchester City-s Edin Dzeko and has played at St James- Park and Elland Road already in his short career.

His name is Mitchell Austin and he is not your regular non-league footballer.

The Sydney-born midfielder, aged 20, is currently playing his second season for Conference North outfit Stalybridge Celtic.

Before that he was at Rotherham United for two years, having signed with the club after he caught their eye while on a tour of England with Manly United.

Austin played against the reserve sides of Manchester United, Newcastle United and Leeds United while at Rotherham, but his time at the club was not spent in the first team.

“It was frustrating,” Austin said.

“We were struggling and the manager (Ronnie Moore) was bringing in more and more experienced players.

“He wouldn-t give anyone a chance. It was so hard to try and get in (the team) because there were about 30 professionals at the club.”

Austin feels some of the best performances of his career came at Rotherham, including a first-team friendly at non-league side Emley.

Despite injuries and a massive squad harming his first-team aims in South Yorkshire, the Australian still has plenty of fond memories.

“Playing against Manchester United Under-18's…that's probably my career highlight,” he said.

“Danny Welbeck and (Federico) Macheda were playing and it was at Carrington (Manchester United-s training ground). Quite a few of the first-team players were around and quite a few were watching.

“Just being in that environment and playing that game against the top players, it's the sort of place you aspire to be.

“(Elland Road) was great. To go and play there was a dream really. The pitch was immaculate. Playing at (those two) and St. James- Park was good." E very footballer wants to be playing regularly though, and eventually Austin had to leave to fulfill his first-team ambitions.

A four-month stint in Sweden - in which he played lower-league football - was followed by his move to Stalybridge, who sit second in Conference North at the time of writing despite winning just one of their last eight matches.

“When I came back (from Sweden) I signed for Stalybridge as they had just gone full- ime. I decided to go there and it-s been going well.

“Automatic promotion is definitely the aim. That's been the main goal since I started (but) we are getting caught now and have hit a bit of a slump.”

Stalybridge Celtic trail table-toppers Hyde by 12 points, but have three matches in hand.

Austin has been a regular in the first team in recent times with his pace and strength on the ball highlights of his performances.

“I had a bit of a back injury at the start of the season so I joined in late in pre-season. It started off slowly and I was just making substitute appearances here and there.

“The last three or four months I have been playing regularly. I-m really enjoying it.”

The ambition Austin has is obvious - he is happy at Stalybridge for now and wants to achieve success with the club but he sees himself playing at a higher level as he gets older and more experienced with first-team football in England.

He takes his football that seriously that when Tottenham play on TV, he can be found on his couch with a pen and paper watching Bale studiously.

Before you get the image of a non-league footballer with simply too much spare time on their hands, Stalybridge are full time and Austin-s days start at 10am and end at 4pm with team meetings, training and gym work all part of his daily schedule.

He still takes the time out to watch Bale-s every move though, in the hope of replicating him on the pitch.

“The manager keeps calling me Gareth Bale so I'm trying to focus my game a bit on him.

“Pace is my main attribute (like Bale). I had a pen and paper when he scored those two goals against Norwich recently.”

Bale might be the footballer he admires but Dzeko is the one in his phone. With Stalybridge Celtic based in Manchester, Austin takes the opportunity to watch Dzeko and his City teammates when he is free.

"I met Edin on a night out with some of the team. The goalkeeper at our club knew his driver. Everyone in the team calls me Dzeko because they think I look like him so I just went over and had a chat.

“I have seen him quite a few times since and I go watch the games (City) if he is there.”

Perhaps playing alongside Dzeko is fanciful for the Australian at this stage in his career but the level-headed youngster is sure to be a success of his own if he can avoid injury.

Austin is working hard to achieve his goal of playing at a higher level and says he will take inspiration from his former teammate, Conner Jennings, who was recently signed by Scunthorpe United of League One after scoring 15 times in 23 matches for Stalybridge this season.

If his Football League dream does not come true for whatever reason, Austin is open to a move back to Australia.

“If it doesn't work out in England I would definitely look at coming back. I trained with Gold Coast United when I went back last year.

“I thought the standard was quite good from what I was expecting. They had quite a few good players.” A nd while there is no doubt Austin would add to a Hyundai A-League team, one gets the feeling he has plenty to achieve in England before it is something he seriously contemplates.