ERTL: WE’RE BUZZING FOR NEW SEASON
DESPITE all their problems, joining Portsmouth last summer was never a decision Johnny Ertl doubted – and now the off-field issues have been resolved, the Austrian insists he was always going to stay around to help produce a brighter future.
Relegation to LeagueTwo was confirmed on April 16, but by exiting a 14-month stay in administration and taking the ten-point deduction immediately Pompey have been offered the chance of a fresh start next term.
And after a turbulent season on the south coast,during which none of the 51 other players used played more than Ertl, it is fitting he earned the club’s player-of-the-year award.
Handed the armband on New Year’s Day, Ertl initially had to bear the weight of captaining an interchangeable XI along with the fears of a community desperate to save their club’s existence.
But another influx of personnel in January proved the turning point – bringing together a group of players willing to stick it out and who eventually ended a club-record 23-game winless run.
Ertl sees no reason not to lead from the front again next term.
“It has been a very difficult season,” he said.“We’ve had to move training grounds, people have been made redundant and we’ve had so much to deal with off the pitch but this club is unique.
“The court case was history in the making.There was such a buzz about the place and now we can build up a professional environment and ensure it is a fresh start.
“I can tell you every single player showed great relief that the club is still alive.We are on the up and can build for the future.
“The biggest step has been taken but now we have lots of little steps to make.You can feel times are changing and we’ve already managed to create that spirit over the last few months.
“Some players couldn’t cope with the situation. A lot of promises were made at the beginning but nobody knew what was going on.
“As a player you can’t do a lot about that. Sometimes it felt like we were against the rest of the world but all you can do is play.
“January was the turning point. Guy (Whittingham) told me he wanted to keep me because the club means a lot to him and it is a fantastic place.
“He bought in the right players, players that dealt with the situation, and although we had to handle a lot of insecurity we’ve got through it and you’ve seen what we can achieve with a stable squad.”
Whittingham’s managerial role was finally made permanent on April 24, along with the positions of new chairman Iain McInnes and new chief executive Mark Catlin.
Ertl fully expects the former Pompey striker to lead the new regime to success next season, with a group of players highly motivated to bounce straight back.
“Now that we are out of administration they will see what the budget is and we can plan for the future,” he added. “But we are already prepared for League Two.
“We’ve still got Fratton Park, we’re searching for a better training ground and we have a great, honourable group of players who stuck together.
“Guy is the right man to lead us into a bright future. He handled the financial issues very well and gave us all great support.
“Even though we have gone down it is strange because we are all buzzing.The mentality is to roll our sleeves up next season.”
HURRY UP SUMMER: Pompey’s Johnny Ertl