Johnny Ertl on going from ultimate nightmare debut to special place in hearts of Portsmouth fans

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In terms of debuts it’s verging on the ultimate nightmare.

An own goal in a 1-0 home defeat at a football club in turmoil. No, the Pompey omens didn’t look very good for Johnny Ertl, after his bow against Oldham eight years ago.

Yet, eight months later one of the most popular figures of recent years was celebrating being named player of the season on a day which will live long in the memory for all who fought to keep this football club alive.

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In between, Ertl took his seat at the front of one of the biggest rollercoaster rides the game has ever seen.

Johnn Ertl celebrates at CreweJohnn Ertl celebrates at Crewe
Johnn Ertl celebrates at Crewe | JPIMedia

His three years at Fratton Park has given the Austrian memories to cherish, created friendships which will last a lifetime and formed a bond with a city he holds dear to his heart.

But few would have called that from the most inauspicious of openings.

‘It was a horrible start,’ Ertl said, as he spoke to The News’ Pompey Talk podcast, which can be downloaded HERE

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‘I remember when I signed for Pompey, put pen to paper and went to stay in the hotel. I basically wasn’t match fit. I came down and two days later I was starting as a centre-back!

‘When you lose 1-0, score an own goal and then get substituted in the 80th minute, as I told my wife Selma, it can’t get any worse.

‘What was the fan base going to think of someone who scored an own goal and got substituted when we lost 1-0? That was the start of my Pompey career!

‘I never saw what would happen at that moment, but I also knew what I needed to do.

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‘I had to get my fitness and understand Pompey, but this was a great challenge for me.’

Few players would have experienced the chaos and upheaval Ertl and his team-mates went through, as the club found themselves without a training base and with a constant turnover of players through a second 14-month period of administration.

The result on the pitch was a record 23 winless games and a lot of darkness, before the light began to break through on and off the pitch as victory was memorably collected at Crewe.

Ertl can remember the moments when it felt like all hope was lost before the landmark High Court date in April 2013, an occasion which saw the deal done for Pompey Supporters Trust to become 51 per cent shareholders and usher in the community era.

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Then there was the small matter of the final home game of the season against Sheffield United at an exultant Fratton Park...

Ertl said: ‘I must’ve played with 100 players that season. From this time I know so many players it was unbelievable.

‘I have so many numbers and contacts from the players who turned up for two weeks and were then off! It’s great for my network after my football career!

‘I still have the picture from the first page of The News from the Crewe game. My memories were of the emotion.

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‘Guy Whititingham did a great job. He was responsible for getting the people on board and creating a team spirit - and this was the kickstart.

‘After that, we had decent form until the end of the season. For me, this was the rebirth of Portsmouth Football Club.

‘It was hard at the start for me and I never thought it would end with me getting the player of the season trophy.

‘The feeling was great and when I was walking around the pitch everyone was cheering my name and singing “Johnny Ertl ninja turtle!”.

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‘The memory is stuck in my head and to this day it still gives me goosebumps.

‘Looking back to my career I was always hard working and passionate. If I didn’t have the greatest skills and technical ability I would say my heart was in the right place.

‘I’m an honest football player and I put a lot of effort in, but maybe that was what the football cub needed at that time.’

Johnny Ertl is a guest on the latest episode of Pompey Talk. You can download the podcast from Apple, Spotify or click HERE

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