The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF FINAL - By Ryan Wal­ters

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

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