Blues boss defends his skipper

Pompey skipper Johnny Ertl has the full backing of boss Guy Whittingham Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey skipper Johnny Ertl has the full backing of boss Guy Whittingham Picture: Joe Pepler

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Guy Whittingham has hit back at those who have called for Johnny Ertl to be dropped.

The Blues boss believes his Austrian skipper is still a key component to his central midfield, even though Simon Ferry is now back to full fitness and is some fans’ choice to partner Thery Racon.

The Frenchman has impressed since his return to the club, while Gavin Mahon and Romain Padovani remain other options.

But while Whittingham accepts that last season’s player of the year has weaknesses, he also believes much of his good work often goes unnoticed.

Whittingham said: ‘If you are taking Johnny out of the side, he is one of your commandos – one of those guys who will fight and scrap for you.

‘If you saw him the other night, he won the ball a lot in those central-midfield areas, he broke things up and won those headers.

‘That is what you would be taking out of the side.

‘I think Johnny is a little bit underrated.

‘People might get frustrated with Johnny on the ball but he knows the best thing he does is to break things up and keep it simple.

‘That’s what he’s there to do and he does it well.

‘I watched the Wycombe game again and I saw the amount of ball he picked up in midfield, or put people off their stride, or closed them down so they had to rush their pass.

‘He does a heck of a lot of that.

‘Johnny is one person you don’t have to tell whether he had a good or a bad game. He knows.

‘He is honest enough about it to take the criticism and takes the praise as well.

‘When you have got a player who has got some strengths and some weaknesses, then you have to make sure he knows what his strengths are and try to improve his weaknesses.

‘So you give him a bit of advice and go through one or two things on the training pitch.’

While a Ferry and Racon partnership would certainly add creativity to the midfield, it may well be at the expense of the protection of the back four.

And Whittingham clearly has those concerns.

He said: ‘Thery and Simon could possibly play in the same midfield together.

‘I’m not saying Simon or Thery can’t do what Johnny does but he does it reasonably well.

‘From set-plays, he also gets his head on a fair amount of things, which Simon and Thery couldn’t do because they don’t have his height.’

Racon and Mahon signed one-month deals earlier this month and Whittingham hinted he would be keen to keep both of them.

The Blues boss said: ‘Those deals are up at the beginning of November.

‘We’ve probably made our decisions on that, although we’re not saying yet.

‘We’ve been pleased with Thery and Gavin came on and did a good job for us against Bury.’

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