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Home comforts for lively front man

13 October 2015

Read extracts from the 'big interview' with Craig Westcarr from Saturday's match programme...

Home is where the heart is for Craig Westcarr, and always has been – right back to his teenage years.

As a promising Nottingham-born youngster who played for England at youth level, the attacking wideman-cum-striker didn’t stray far from Arnold Hill School to sign as a junior for Forest, where he made his senior debut under the guidance of Paul Hart along with the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson, Andy Reid and David Prutton.

He’s also played across the Trent for Notts County, where he was a promotion winner, and plied his trade elsewhere in the Midlands for Walsall, Kettering, Lincoln and, of course, Chesterfield.

And though there has been the brief interlude here and there as far afield as Cambridge, MK Dons, and most recently, on the south coast with Portsmouth, ‘Westie’ has always gravitated back to the area knows best, which led him this summer to settle back in the Nottingham suburb of Sherwood to sign for Mansfield Town.

That way, he gets to use more of his days doing what he enjoys most of all outside football – spending time with his two sons Kobi, 7, and Marley-Cruz, 2.

“I love looking after my pair of ‘maniacs’ and I get more time for that now I don’t have the travel,” explains Westcarr. “It’s nice that it only takes me 30 minutes to get home rather than two-and-a-half to three hours.

“I now have time to stay behind after training and put some extra work in on things, or go to the gym. Before, you knew you had to get off to travel back up, if I wasn’t staying in the flat I had down there.

“The geography of it definitely played a part in my move. It’s always hard to go that far, especially when you aren’t playing as much as you want to, because you aren’t getting that chance and your face doesn’t fit with the manager.

“Coming to Mansfield is just what I needed and I’m really happy with how things are going because we have put ourselves in a good position. Why shouldn’t we believe was can go on and challenge for promotion from here with the players we have?

Mansfield’s remarkable first-ever victory at Dagenham and Redbridge last Saturday, secured by Adi Yussuf’s first goal for the club late on, was the cue for a “stat” attack of which John Motson would be proud.

A second away victory inside five days (after the previous Tuesday night’s 2-0 success at Stevenage) was only the second time the team had won back-to-back games under manager Adam Murray, and means they have already won more games in League Two on their travels (four) than in the whole of 2014-2015.

Matt Green scored a first league penalty for some 92 matches, while the 4-3 victory was the first time Mansfield had come from two goals down to win (they trailed 3-1 just after the half hour mark) since October 2013 and their first win during the 10th month of a calendar year since 2012.

The game also featured a goal of the season contender from Mal Benning to open the scoring – and it was later named as number one of Sky Sports’ top five in the Football League last weekend.

Westcarr says: “The manager has really instilled in us to take the handbrake off going forward and be positive, so when we were 3-1 down at Dagenham I thought we still had a chance of winning because of the chances we were creating.

“I’m not surprised with the way Mal has started the season, because I know him from Walsall when he was just as attacking, if a bit younger.

“It was a great strike, but he has that in him, and I think Mansfield have themselves a very good player.”

Westcarr has so far formed a decent understanding with crowd favourite Matt Green in attack, even though he has played for much of that time in a wide position or just in the hole.

The 30-year-old admits he would like to play more often as a strike duo – as the pair did so effectively during the 4-0 demolition of Crawley – but is happy to feature in whatever role for the good of the team.

“Greenie is a quality player and I have enjoyed playing with him so far,” says Westcarr. “His work rate is always excellent and you know you can always rely on him.

“The Crawley game would be the highlight for the two of us in tandem so far and hopefully there can be more situations like that as the season unfolds.

“I had a great spell at Walsall when I played as a central striker and I stayed there and scored some goals. Of course, I would love to play up front more here, but so long as I’m in the team and we are winning games, that is what really matters.”

Among the most memorable seasons of Westcarr’s career remains the bizarre and incredible turn of events that saw him being bossed by former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and train alongside Sol Campbell.

Even though things didn’t work out for the famous pair, the Magpies were still able to go up at the end of the season, leaving the now-Mansfield player to pinch himself at what had transpired.

“It was a bit of a circus at times to be honest, but the players themselves were very professional, just like they are here, and got on with it,” recalls Westcarr.

“I think Sven only took one of the training sessions, but he came down all the time to watch and give out the advice… he was a good manager, but it was surreal.

“It was unbelievable to have Sol there, too, but I think he understood the situation and what was going on pretty quickly and got out. The good thing was, we were still able to play some great football once it had all calmed down and got promoted.”

To read an exclusive interview with Stags' goalkeeper Brian Jensen, pick up a copy of The Stag this Saturday for just £3.

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