HE’S POMPEY’S reigning player of the season.
But that hasn’t stopped Johnny Ertl being subjected to moans and groans from some elements of the Fratton faithful this season.
Now Guy Whittingham has leapt to the defence of his captain, insisting he remains a key part of the club’s new era.
Ertl continued in midfield in the woeful 4-0 defeat at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, after being restored to the side for the FA Cup loss at Stevenage.
And the Austrian was one of the very few Pompey players who could hold his head high after the loss at Kingsmeadow.
Whittingham explained Ertl is aware of the stick being aimed in his direction.
He remains exactly the type of character he wants at Fratton Park, however.
‘Johnny Ertl was player of the season, if I’m not mistaken, and for good reason,’ said Whittingham.
‘He wears his heart on his sleeve and he puts in effort.
‘Okay, there are better footballers. But he will give his all every single time for this football club.
‘He will go out and do that every time he steps on to the football pitch.
‘People are aware and he’s certainly aware of some of the criticism he’s been receiving.
‘We are a new team and we are trying to build something.
‘We will certainly stick by each other, that’s for sure.
‘I’m sure all the true fans will do the same by Johnny.’
Ertl was withdrawn 11 minutes after the restart on Saturday as Pompey chased a leveller, with his side one goal down.
But with his solidity missing, the Blues then shipped a further three goals on a miserable day on south London.
Whittingham explained the change wasn’t based on how Ertl was performing.
He said: ‘We wanted Thery to go on and move the ball around a bit.
‘We wanted to be positive and that was a positive change. It wasn’t a reflection on Johnny.’
Whittingham’s faith in Ertl was underlined when he was one of the two Pompey players – along with Andy Barcham – to be handed a three-year deal in the summer.
That was reward for a loyal and committed 2012-13 campaign during a period of turmoil for the Blues.
The Pompey boss felt Ertl’s grit was crucial as he became a leader for his team in that period.
And he remains insistent those traits from Ertl are crucial for his side moving forward as Pompey look to start climbing the League Two table.
Whittingham added: ‘I think, last year, he was exactly what this club needed.
‘Everyone saw what type of player was needed.
‘We needed someone who would run through brick walls for the club.
‘We needed someone who would keep trying and do everything for people on the football pitch.
‘Even when Johnny comes off, he runs off quickly and applauds people.
‘We were at Torquay a couple weeks back, and we equalised with 20 minutes to go.
‘He was half way on the pitch celebrating.
‘It means so much to him.’