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We have to stay up.. or we'll lose Charlie; QPR v BURNLEY; Loftus Road: 3pm; BEFORE CLASH WITH AUSTIN'S OLD SIDE, REDKNAPP SPELLSOUT DANGER OF THE DROP.

Byline: JACOB MURTAGH

HARRY REDKNAPP admits QPR must beat the drop to keep star striker Charlie Austin.

The ex-bricklayer has smashed seven goals in 13 games and is the top-scoring English player in the Premier League alongside West Brom's Saido Berahino.

Austin's exploits have caught the eye of England boss Roy Hodgson and the 25-year-old has been linked with top-flight rivals Tottenham and Liverpool.

The former Burnley frontman has netted 27 times since his PS4million move from Turf Moor in 2013, but is approaching the final 18 months of his contract in west London. And Redknapp admits it will be difficult to persuade him to pen a new deal if the R's don't stave off relegation.

He said: "It will be very important for us to stay up if we want to keep him. He is happy here and obviously wants to play in the Premier League now he has had a taste of it.

"Once you play in the top flight that's where you want to be. I am sure he wants to stay there and if he can go and get 20 goals this year he can help us stay there.

"I don't know what he is worth but it is certainly more than PS4m. I couldn't put a price on him. He is a smashing lad, a good boy who appreciates being here.

"I'm sure the club will be sitting down and talking to him about a new deal. I've never discussed it with him. He's come into the Premier League but he has only played a dozen games so he's got a long way to go.

"But he is improving week by week and he's full of confidence."

Three Lions chief Hodgson is keeping tabs on Austin's progress and he can boost his chances when QPR take on his old side in a crucial basement battle today. The ex-Swindon striker will have to continue his scoring spree if he is to force his way into the England squad in the New Year.

Redknapp (left) added: "Roy has looked at Charlie. He has been at a couple of games so I'm sure if he thinks he is ready he will give him a go."

Austin's old strike partner Danny Ings has fired three goals in as many games to move the rejuvenated Clarets off the foot of the table. And Redknapp admits the Hoops must be wary of the in-form England Under 21 hotshot at Loftus Road.

He added: "I saw a lot of Danny Ings when he was at Bournemouth. I have followed his career and he's a good player. He is a goal-scorer, with good movement, so he is on the radar.

"Burnley are a good side and it is another big game for us. That three points last week put us back in the pack and made it close again.

"There's nothing in it, it is so close. You don't want to be bottom at Christmas, you don't want that stat thrown at you."

TOP ENGLISH GOALSCORERS

7 Charlie Austin, Saido Berahino

5 Wayne Rooney

4 Danny Ings

3 Gabriel Abonlahor, Fraizer Campbell, Nathan Dyer, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Routledge, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard

TEAM NEW

SQPR: Green, Isla, Onuoha, Caulker, Yun, Vargas, Henry, Barton, Fer, Zamora, Austin

BURNLEY: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Keane, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd, Barnes, Ings

REFEREE: Jon Moss TV: Match of the Day, BBC1, 10.30pm

Harry Redknapp has no fresh concerns. Bobby Zamora has recovered from a back problem and could start after being left on the bench in midweek.

Burnley are expected to be without both Stephen Ward and Michael Duff. Ward will see a specialist about an ankle injury, while Duff is still not ready to return from his calf strain.

Sam Vokes is close to a first-team return following a knee injury after scoring two in a 70-minute outing for the development squad.

CAPTION(S):

HOOP AND HOLLER Charlie Austin is making a big name for himself at QPR following his move from Burnley (above)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 6, 2014
Words:671
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