Striker relishing Pompey challenge

Craig Westcarr. Picture: Sarah Standing (141940-2977)
Craig Westcarr. Picture: Sarah Standing (141940-2977)
Nathan Thompson

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Craig Westcarr is confident Pompey’s system can bring the best out of his goal-scoring talents.

The summer recruit netted 16 times in all competitions for League One Walsall last season.

The bulk of those Saddlers goals arrived while he was deployed as a lone striker, with three players operating behind.

It was a 4-2-3-1 formation also favoured by Andy Awford at the end of last term that conjured up an impressive five wins and two draws as he kept the Blues in the Football League.

Pompey’s boss is expected to keep faith in the system for the new campaign, with Westcarr seen as a versatile option across the front four positions.

But the 29-year-old believes he is at his most effective as the leading forward.

He said: ‘Last year at Walsall was my best goal-scoring season and I am looking forward to the challenge now.

‘I played up front for most of the campaign and also operated wide on the left or the right for little bit as part of a three, which I enjoyed as well.

‘But most of my goals came as centre forward, with three coming off the wing.

‘I’ve come to a different club but it’s the same formation.

‘That’s what Walsall played as well and I can definitely work in that.

‘You have got to have versatility as a player. It’s nothing new to me, although I was up top for 95 per cent of the time while I was there.

‘The role just clicked for me. I had a lad behind me (Romaine Sawyers) that was very good as well and also got goals, so I enjoyed that partnership and it helped my game.

‘Once you get one goal you keep going and going.

‘It’s all about confidence, and I’ll be working hard this pre-season to make sure I can continue that.’

Westcarr’s Bescot Stadium departure shocked many of their fans following his superb year in front of goal.

Awford himself admitted it was a ‘surprise’ seeing the former Nottingham Forest apprentice on the market on the back of it.

Saddlers boss Dean Smith claimed he wanted to head in a different direction, focusing on younger players in the forward positions, although there were also financial considerations.

Regardless, at the age of 29, Westcarr certainly has plenty of years ahead of him – and he’s relishing the chance to spend them with Pompey.

He added: ‘At Walsall it was just a thing where me and the manager spoke, just an amicable chat, and we parted ways.

‘I think most were surprised but he said he was going to go a different way – whatever that is – you just have to respect that.

‘It’s one of them, it’s football, that happens.

‘I’m really excited to be at Portsmouth, though.

‘The club’s ambitions appeal to me and I’m looking for a really good season.’