Ertl gets the picture when it comes to Pompey

Johnny Ertl high-fives jubilant Pompey fans after the 2-1 win over Crewe at Gresty Road in March Picture: Joe Pepler
Johnny Ertl high-fives jubilant Pompey fans after the 2-1 win over Crewe at Gresty Road in March Picture: Joe Pepler
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It’s one of the most enduring images of last season.

Pompey had just gone through the longest winter of discontent and endured a miserable 23-match winless run.

But that finally came to an end last March as the trains rolled past a few yards away at Crewe’s Gresty Road home.

The outpouring in the wake of a 2-1 win for the Blues was one of the highlights of the campaign.

Players and loyal supporters rejoiced together as captain Johnny Ertl high fived his way through a swathe of jubilant Pompey fans.

It is a moment perfectly captured by News and Pompey photographer Joe Pepler, with the joy of the occasion leaping from the shot.

And what makes the picture stand out even more from a tough campaign is it tells the truth about the Austrian.

The interaction with the blue army comes easily for the 30-year-old, and his delight at sharing the moment with supporters is real.

It is a piercing insight into Ertl’s character, and says much about why manager Guy Whittingham was so keen to ensure he will be back at Fratton Park next season.

His Blues future appeared to be in the balance ever so slightly as he went off the radar during a period of backpacking around the Philippines with his partner after the 2012-13 season ended.

A bout of agent talk linked him with moves to everywhere from Australia to Austria to America.

There was only one place Ertl wanted to be, however, and, typically of the man, he felt there was no way he could turn his back on Pompey.

The plan, originally, was for the skipper to sign his deal when he returned for pre-season training at the end of this month.

With other players, there would be the fear of other sides nipping in with a better offer and securing his services instead.

Such is Ertl’s character, however, there was never that concern with him.

In the event, the deal has been wrapped up in super-quick time and everyone is happy.

‘There was talk about other places,’ Ertl said. ‘But, to be honest, Pompey gets under your skin.

‘I’m the captain of the club and I picked up the player of the year. I didn’t want to leave after all that had happened.

‘The club survived and it’s a new, exciting challenge – and that is part of the reason why I am staying.’

What is certain is that Whittingham saw the former Crystal Palace and Sheffield United man as a key cog in his team moving forward.

The fact that the Pompey boss was prepared to hand Ertl a three-year deal tells you much about how he values him.

Ertl is one of only two players from 13 Blues signings this summer to be handed a contract of that length – and that as he moves towards his 31st birthday at the end of the year.

With his stock so high now, it’s easy to forget it was the most inauspicious of starts for Ertl’s Pompey career.

An own goal, which was the defining moment of the game against Oldham, was hardly the most glorious of openings.

Ertl was thrown into the middle of defence by then-Pompey manager Michael Appleton with his fitness well off the pace, but, typically, didn’t shirk the challenge.

It was his move to the centre of midfield which has seen him flourish and go on to win the The News player of season trophy.

Some may see Ertl as a figure high on perspiration over inspiration, but Whittingham will view that as no bad thing next season – and Blues fans have long made their feelings clear over such footballers.

But it’s his desire to embrace Pompey which makes him just as important moving forward – like he did that day at Gresty Road.