Wearing rascal shorts or going commando, Ertl made his mark

Johnny Ertl in Austrian attire after the final game of last season
Johnny Ertl in Austrian attire after the final game of last season
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For a guy who had some pretty testing lows during his Pompey career, Johnny Ertl left with his head held high.

A genuine bloke who could have turned his back on Fratton Park, just as so many others chose to do in its hour of need, Ertl kept plugging away.

He will admit himself he is not a flair player but that should not downplay his other attributes.

And as is so often the case in many walks of life, failings in other areas can be masked by desire, commitment and heart.

He has those attributes in abundance.

He is a proud Austrian – you only had to see him wandering around Fratton Park in a rascal pair of dungaree shorts after the final game of last season to understand that.

But he ‘got’ Pompey. He still does.

It was a pretty dismal start to his Pompey career when he netted an own goal in a 1-0 defeat against Oldham in September 2012.

And he was partly responsible for one of the major party-pooping moments in the club’s recent history – as his flailing arm saw him sent off against Oxford on the first day of the 2013-14 season, which ended in a 4-1 home defeat.

During those struggles under Guy Whittingham as we all attempted to get our heads around League Two, he was shamefully booed by a small element of his own club’s fans as he got ready to come on as a substitute.

Not everyone appreciated his efforts and no doubt some were glad to see the back of him.

But he had his highs as well.

Goals against Cheltenham and an odd dancing celebration, a cracking volley against Wycombe and the best display I saw from him – a superb defensive effort in the JPT win at Yeovil last season.

During a press conference, ex-soldier Whittingham once delved into his extensive military knowledge to describe his skipper and it was a description of a man you want alonsgide you in a fight.

‘Johnny is one of my commandos,’ he said.

Some people may forget Ertl had previously been voted as the club’s player of the year after that horrible 2012-13 season.

His critics will say he was one of the few who was actually there for most of the season but there was more to it than that.

He stuck around when people like Darel Russell, Leigh Williamson and Izale McLeod had decided they didn’t fancy the fight.

Even when he was shunted into the background by Richie Barker, he kept his head down and didn’t make any public complaints.

For Andy Awford’s first game in caretaker charge, he was brought back in from the wilderness.

Awford needed fighters – he called on Ertl.

When I asked Ertl afterwards about the difficulty of being surplus to requirements under the previous regime, he point-blank refused to make any criticism or put the boot in on Barker. It was all about the future for him.

In that position, I certainly would have had a dig or two but he’s a bigger man than me.

Now Paul Cook has decided Ertl will not feature in his squad plans.

Let’s just hope the Blues boss has a new breed of gutsy battlers for those times when the going gets tough.