Guy Whittingham feels skipper Johnny Ertl has become Pompey’s inspirational leader.
The popular Austrian has been a constant voice of positivity since his arrival at Fratton Park and has won over the doubters with a string of consistent displays.
His performances in a holding-midfield role have been a key part of the Blues’ improvement in recent weeks.
After Whittingham made Ertl skipper following Brian Howard’s departure, the ex-Crystal Palace` man has stepped up a gear with his commitment to the cause and his on-pitch leadership, becoming a fans’ favourite in the process.
And the caretaker Blues boss believes the responsibility of the captaincy has extracted something extra from the 30-year-old.
Whittingham said: ‘Johnny has really taken to it since we gave him that captain’s armband. It has definitely boosted him.
‘He loves the crowd, he loves being around here, he gets on with all the staff and he’s a positive guy to have around the club.
‘He’s done wonders for us from that point of view and he has led by example in many games. He just doesn’t stop.
‘Whether it is tackling, his enthusiasm in getting people to pick up or heading the ball – whatever it is. He does lead by example and that’s what your captain should do.’
It’s fair to say there were doubts about the former Austria international among many supporters when Ertl joined Pompey in September and he struggled in his early performances.
But those doubts have been silenced after nailing down his preferred position as a combative central midfielder to become a key figure in a settled side.
While it has surprised some, Whittingham insists he expected nothing less once he got to know Ertl’s character and drive to succeed.
Whittingham said: ‘I knew the players before but I was working with the development group so I didn’t get to know them quite as closely.
‘But now I have got to know them, it doesn’t surprise me at all with him.
‘He has shown a great attitude, he wants to work hard and is the ideal kind of guy to have around the place. He’s just a really positive guy.’
Whittingham has refused to start making too many plans on his hopes for next season.
But in casting a tentative eye towards next term’s squad, he admits he would love to keep Ertl at the heart of it.
The Blues boss said: ‘He is one we want to keep. But there are not many in the squad that you look at now and think “I’m not sure about him”.
‘All of them are on our radar.
‘The thoughts are there that we have a core of a decent side coming together but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
‘But if you can keep a few of this side, I think it would be something to be optimistic about.’