Leeds United and Neil Warnock have confirmed interest in Rodolph Austin, and press from Norway seems to suggest that not only have Leeds got interest in the player, but negotiations with SK Brann are underway. With £200,000 already rejected, and Leeds seemingly willing to push higher in order to secure the Jamaican, it is clear that this is an important target for Warnock this summer. Whilst highlight packages of Austin have proliferated on the internet (including below), these can be deceptive, as football fans around the world have discovered. Who can forget Nacho Gonzalez’s signing for Newcastle thanks to the YouTube browsing Dennis Wise. Similarly, Filipe Da Costa looked like the real deal according to Mr. YouTube, but we all know how that worked out.
With that in mind, I’ve tasked myself with getting the ‘lo-down’ (which is what I believe the kids are saying these days) on Rodolph Austin from those who know him best. We’ve got information from a journalist from Bergen, who is working on the Rodolph Austin transfer story for Bergensavisen. We’ve also got a report from a man who has seen pretty much every game Austin has played for Bergen, Asbørn Perry Sve. Svend Karlsen, Leeds fan, Norwegian and editor of Leeds United ‘Peacock News’ of the Scandinavian Supports club. Synthesized below are these opinions.
Asbjørn Perry Sve has had the opportunity to watch Rodolph since August of 2008, after a mooted move to Stoke failed due to a lack of international clearance. Sve has seen essentially every game Austin has played for Brann Bergen, as a season ticket holder and by viewing away games on television. In a description that will delight Leeds fans, and goes a long way to explaining why Warnock is such a fan, Sve refers to Austin’s “never say die attitude”. He’s also seen as the “bone-breaking kind of midfielder any opposition hates to play against” by Svend Karlsen, who has seen him in action many times as a man who follows the Tippeligaen closely and has reported on teams for years. Rune Ulvik, journalist for Bergensavisen, says that Austin is “feared by his opponents”. This, to be honest, sounds like the sort of player we have been missing to run the midfield for a while now, something Svend refers to with the belief that he “commands the midfield”. Sve similarly suggests that this is the case, as although he is “no talker”, he “leads by example”.
Asbjørn says that whilst, at first, he had a “problem of timing” tackles, the club have since worked on his game and he’s improved immensely in this regard. Given that our other option currently is Michael Brown as a tough-tackling defensive midfielder, Austin seems to be a step up, given he now combines his desire with an ability to not merely focus upon the shins and knees. In fact, Sve refers to Austin’s tackles as being “immense”. Ulvik refers to him now being a “very strong tackler”.
In terms of the technical aspects of his game, both Svend and Asbjørn have referred to Austin’s “fantastic crosses”. All three of the people we contacted believe that Austin possesses pace, with Svend particularly pointing out that Rodolph Austin “is quicker than the average midfield-anchor tends to be”. Furthermore, Sve puts focus on his ability in front of goal, referring to him as having a shot in the “Hasselbaink class”, and also points out that he is the club’s regular penalty taker. In 2011, when he was voted the best player in the Tippeligaen, he scored seven goals in 25 appearances (each team plays 30 games a season, there is no injury worry). Clearly this is no slouch in front of goal, in statistic and opinion.
There is also already a Leeds connection in place. Sve talks about how Austin has played alongside both Eirik Bakke and Gylfi Einarsson, in fact displacing Bakke from the center of midfield. Bakke could only find a place up front when competing with Austin. Hopefully these two ex-Leeds names have told Austin about all the positives that surround playing for our club.
When asked about the disparity in quality between the two leagues, both Asbjørn Sve and Rune Ulvik point out that there is a difference. It is clear to both that not just any player can make the step across with ease. However, Ulvik reckons Austin is “well above average”, and he thinks he will “do just fine”. He’s also been called, officially, the best player in the league before, so clearly this is not just a player of normal standards.
As to why this move is being allowed to take place, Austin has let his contract run down, and at this point, he could agree a move for free that would take place six months from now. Svend is also of the belief that Brann are keen to buy back Eirik Huseklepp from Portsmouth. Brann therefore need to generate cash to achieve this (they are no longer heavily backed by private investors as they were when Austin came to the club). Svend’s sources suggest that SK Brann are ready to sell at about £350,000, and that Leeds will likely come back with a further offer having heard this asking price. “If Leeds pass the £300,000 mark,” said Svend, “I think they have a deal”.
The only real fear now is that someone will beat us to the deal. Clearly with so many sources, biased and not, in favour of him as a player, he is a worthwhile signing at £350,000 and with years of football ahead of him. Warnock also rates him heavily, so professionals are in agreement about Austin. Leeds fans have already taken to him based on the video footage, with #rodolphaustinfacts a common hashtag on twitter. A signing worth making I feel.
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).