LONDON _ Charlie Austin completed his remarkable rise from bricklayer to the England squad in the space of six years when he was called up by his country for the first time on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Queens Park Rangers striker, who has scored 17 goals in the Premier League this season, was one of three players to earn first selections by England ahead of a friendly against Ireland on June 7 and a European Championship qualifier in Slovenia on June 14.
The other newcomers are Leicester striker Jamie Vardy and Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who have impressed while playing for lowly Premier League teams this season.
In 2009, Austin was still living with his parents and getting up at 6 a.m. to work a full day on a building site before playing on a part-time basis for Poole Town in the ninth tier of the English game.
Now, he is the second-highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League after netting against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, and is close to pulling on an England shirt.
“I would like to think that playing for England is still going to be the dream of all aspiring footballers,” England manager Roy Hodgson said. “If this selection helps in that way, it’s very advantageous in my opinion.
“I have heard some very good things about him as a person, outside of the fact we know he’s a good player.”
Vardy’s rise has also been dramatic. He was playing in the non-leagues only four years ago _ Hodgson said he remembers watching him playing for Fleetwood Town _ and wasn’t even a regular for Leicester for most of this season.
However, the pacey 28-year-old forward has stood out for the team in its stunning end to the season, where Leicester has won six of its last eight games to climb off the bottom of the standings and secure safety with one round to spare.
“There’s no doubt players who have that pace and desire to run in behind defenders are always interesting to coaches,” Hodgson said, “and I think his latter part of the season with Leicester, where he has helped them through this great escape, he has been excellent.”
Austin and Vardy has been given their chance because of a striker shortage for Hodgson, with Daniel Sturridge injured and Harry Kane, Danny Ings and Saido Berahino all selected by England’s under-21 team for the upcoming European Championship at that level.
England is top of Group E in European qualifying after winning all five of its games, including a 3-1 victory over Slovenia at Wembley Stadium. Slovenia is second in the group, six points behind, and has won both of its home fixtures without conceding.