Versatile Westcarr can be key Pompey option

Craig Westcarr. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141841-575)
Craig Westcarr. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141841-575)
Nicke Kabamba. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Craig Westcarr’s versatility will enrich Pompey’s wealth of attacking options.

That is the verdict of Andy Awford, who believes the ‘surprise’ free agent can be a key offensive player.

The 29-year-old bolsters an impressive attacking pool, which includes Ricky Holmes, Jed Wallace, Andy Barcham and Wes Fogden in addition to strikers Ryan Taylor, Patrick Agyemang, Ryan Bird and Tom Craddock.

Last term Westcarr enjoyed the most prolific season of his career, with 16 goals for Walsall.

The majority arrived while serving as a centre forward with three players behind – a system Awford used to great effect at the campaign’s end with the Blues.

But the former Nottingham Forest player can also play as one of those three – and it is that flexibility which has Awford savouring his presence.

He said: ‘Craig gives us a different front player to what we have got already, he complements those already here.

‘He scored goals last season and can play not just down the middle but wide, which is an added bonus.

‘I think he would prefer to play down the middle but can go wide if we ask him to.

‘He can play up front in a 4-4-2, he can play off the front in a 4-4-1-1, he can play up front on his own in a 4-3-3, so he gives me that flexibility whichever way we play.

‘He can slot into that quite comfortably, so that is important.

‘If I play 4-2-3-1, the positions across there are very, very healthy.

‘Westcarr, Wallace, Holmes, Barcham, Fogden, Agyemang, Bird – there’s an awful lot of players.

‘Craig’s lively, gives you that something a little bit different and he’s creative if I want a link player.

‘When the ball is wide he gets into the box and if he plays wide himself he is not afraid to track full-backs back and do that side of the game.

‘There are all sorts of permutations to how we play, which is what I want. I want that flexibility if I need to change it.

‘If I find a successful system, which I managed to do last year, I won’t change it.

‘But if I need to nip and tuck it here and there, we have the flexibility to be able to do that.’

The Saddlers’ decision not to retain Westcarr in League One alarmed many of their supporters.

Boss Dean Smith claimed he wanted to go in a different direction and blood younger forwards in his side.

Westcarr attracted lots of attention and Awford revealed his shock at his availability.

He added: ‘I was surprised if I am being honest, having scored that many goals.

‘But that is Walsall’s business, it’s not for me to comment on that. It was a surprise to me but it is down to Walsall what they do.

‘When he was released he became a target of ours and I’m glad we got him.’