The career of Craig Westcarr is providing an excellent example of how the fickle finger of fate is, well, fickle.
Just like fictional character Reginald Perrin, Westcarr has undergone a fall and rise, and his story so far can be viewed as a classic lesson in not giving up and believing in oneself, even when things seem to be on a permanent downward spiral.
Aged just 16, the forward became Nottingham Forest’s youngest ever player and an England youth international, and his future looked extremely promising. However, just a few years later, Westcarr was released by Forest and dropped into non-league football in 2005. He even sank as far as the Conference North during a spell with Kettering Town.
Just when total obscurity beckoned, Westcarr got a lucky break. An FA Cup performance impressed the then Notts County manager Ian McParland, and on the strength of this display, the latter brought Westcarr to the black and white half of Nottingham in May 2009.
Perhaps crucially, player and manager had worked together before at Nottingham Forest, and on signing him, McParland said:"He has plenty of pace and can score goals."
Those have proved to be very wise words. Westcarr had an outstanding first season with the Magpies in 2009-10, scoring 11 goals as his side won the League Two title, and he has taken this form into the current campaign, scoring six goals so far; the latest in the home win against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
He seems to be getting better all the time and, as joint-leading goal scorer this season, is fast becoming one of County’s indispensable players. His talent is undoubted and his versatility is valuable; even if he plays out wide, left or right, he still scores goals.
However, he poses the greatest threat in a central striking role, and, if he continues to play in that position, preferably partnering Lee Hughes, could easily be the club’s leading scorer come next May.
Westcarr feels thoroughly at home at Meadow Lane: "I've been here for over a year now, and I feel settled, and I'm used to playing with everyone else. It is helping me flourish. My first season here was a really good season for me. I feel I did well when we won the league.
“I feel like I have improved since then. I think I am playing some good stuff at the minute, and I'm really enjoying it, and scoring goals.”
Following the win over Plymouth, Notts manager Craig Short commented on Westcarr’s pace and versatility: "I just think about myself, when I played centre half. I would not have wanted to play against him, not just because of his finishing but his pace.
"It's great we can play him in two positions, out wide and through the middle. With [Alan] Judge around, we can play Westy [Westcarr] there.”
Westcarr is now targeting successive league wins for the first time this season ahead of Notts’ tough test away at Colchester United on Saturday.
"We have not won back-to-back league games, so we have to use the win against Plymouth as a springboard. We are really good at home, we have to be more ruthless away from home now.," he said.
"I think we have improved as a team. We are all playing well, and it's about being consistent now, and winning more games. We have to get a good run going now."
With Westcarr playing as he is, they have an excellent chance of victory at the Colchester Community Stadium; as proven time and again this season and last, if ‘Westy’ gets a chance, he will take it.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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