Charlie Austin could make his debut for Southampton during their Premier League visit to Manchester United on Saturday 23 January after Ronald Koeman confirmed that his new signing has trained throughout the week and will be in contention. The former QPR striker, whose previous contract was due to expire this summer, completed a cut-price £4m ($5.6m) move to St Mary's on 17 January but his availability moving forward remained unclear due to a hamstring tweak.
Such a problem had kept the 26-year-old sidelined since his brace against Brighton in mid-December, although he did successfully complete a medical ahead of his switch to the south coast. And while Koeman concedes that he held initial reservations about the injury, it appears the player has recovered quickly enough to merit immediate inclusion in the Dutchman's squad.
"Of course I was a little bit worried as Charlie had a hamstring injury before we signed him, but he did all the training sessions this week and comparing to the rest of the team he is really fit," Koeman said at a press conference. "That's good news because then he can be part of the squad for this weekend."
The manager replied "yes" when asked to clarify that Austin would travel to Old Trafford and of his chances of making a first appearance for Southampton he added: "That's possible because if you are part of the squad, you have possibilities and opportunities to play or to come in."
While he admitted to being pleasantly surprised by that quick recovery, Koeman revealed that a decision on Graziano Pelle's availability will likely be taken on Friday (22 January). The Italian international recently missed four games due to a knee injury and was left as an unused substitute during the 3-0 win over West Brom.
Pelle's recent absence combined with the arrival of Austin has only served to heighten speculation that the ex-Feyenoord forward could leave Southampton in the near future, while Shane Long has also been linked with an imminent exit amid widespread reports that Liverpool recently failed with an £8m bid for his services. Koeman has long been adamant that none of his current squad would be leaving before the deadline, however.
"It's the same answer," he said when questioned regarding the continued interest in Long. "We brought one player in and nobody will go out. I keep that until the 30 or 31 January because you know my answer. Nobody will go out but maybe I have to repeat it 80 times more. If you like it I will do it."