'It put a lot of hope once more into Portsmouth Football Club' - why Crewe's Gresty Road remains iconic to Blues fans
For many, Gresty Road conjures up an iconic image – and the photograph remains on display at Johnny Ertl’s Austrian home.
Pompey’s skipper is depicted high-fiving a supporter following a League One encounter in March 2013.
To give context, it was the Blues’ first win for almost four-and-a-half months.
For some, that afternoon was a bittersweet moment, the realisation that a fallen Premier League club were now rejoicing beating Crewe.
However, having gone a club record 23 matches without victory, including nine successive defeats, it represented an occasion to savour.
Kenny Jackett’s side head to Gresty Road on Saturday seeking to strengthen promotion aspirations, but the scenario was entirely different eight years ago.
Patrick Agyemang and David Connolly were the bottom-of-the-table Blues’ scorers in the 2-1 triumph, with Mathias Pogba, brother of Manchester United’s Paul, netting for the Railwaymen.
How the ever-faithful large Pompey travelling contingent among the 5,120 crowd celebrated at the final whistle.
The touching scenes were characterised by the likes of Ertl and Ricardo Rocha make their way over to embrace emotional supporters afterwards
For Ertl, it provided significant hope for the club during dark, dark times.
‘Looking back at that 2012-13 League One season and how it unfolded, we didn’t play that badly, which may seem a strange thing to say having finished bottom of the table with 24 defeats,’ the former midfielder told Played Up Pompey Three.
‘There were some good performances, to be fair, with results often close, but in football winning can be the most difficult outcome.
‘Not many players would select a trip to Crewe Alexandra as their Blues favourite game, but that March 2013 match is part of Pompey history – following a club-record 23 matches without victory, we won.
‘After that 2-1 result at Gresty Road, I stayed up north at my best friend’s house as it was my godson’s birthday and met so many delighted Pompey fans on the train during the journey.
‘Twitter went absolutely berserk with all the happy messages and there’s a great picture of me in The News high-fiving fans after the final whistle, while still in my kit. It’s a photo I still have at home.
‘Our crowd that day were very emotional and I always reflect on it as the day we ‘planted the tree’. It put a lot of hope once more into Portsmouth Football Club.
‘We were an honest bunch of players who really cared for the club. As a team, we were competitive, nobody hammered us, the fans could see we put a good shift in.
‘Following that Crewe game, our form lifted, losing just three of our final 10 matches.’
Guy Whittingham was Pompey caretaker boss at the time, stepping up after Michael Appleton had walked out to join Blackpool in November 2012.
Recognising the dignified manner in which he had conducted himself amid appalling circumstances at a club mired in administration, the travelling local media applauded him as he approached to give his post-match victory speech.
Pompey have been back once to Gresty Road since that day – a goalless draw in August 2016 under Paul Cook.
On Saturday the club is returning to a place holding great memories, yet armed with very different ambitions.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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