Ertl revelling being back where he belongs

Johnny Ertl excelled after being handed a central midfield role for the visit of Notts County on Tuesday night
Johnny Ertl excelled after being handed a central midfield role for the visit of Notts County on Tuesday night

It was familiar territory for Johnny Ertl – and how he stamped his authority on proceedings.

Certainly Guy Whitttingham concedes the 30-year-old is at his most effective in the heart of midfield.

Yet the caretaker boss has not ruled out a return to the centre of defence for Ertl this season.

The Austrian found himself back in midfield for Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Notts County.

After serving the previous two matches in defence, it was a reinstatement to his more natural position.

Ertl responded with a man-of-the-match display for the Blues, biting in the tackle and dominant in the wretched playing conditions.

Regardless of the result, the former Palace man revelled in his midfield role, especially in the absence of one-time fellow enforcer Darel Russell.

Whittingham, though, has not ruled out once more utilising his versatility at centre-half.

He said: ‘Probably, Johnny’s best position is in the centre of midfield.

‘Ahead of the Notts County game that was what we were trying to do, looking at the team and thinking how many players are square pegs in round holes.

‘Johnny is one of those who just wants to help out wherever he can.

‘He’s a good guy, an enthusiastic guy, and he does all he can to help us out.

‘He is one of those I wouldn’t hesitate to ask to play in a position he is not so familiar with because he will do it for the team.

‘I wouldn’t discount Johnny playing in the centre of defence again.

‘There are a lot of games coming up and it depends on which way we go and personnel we put in. It wasn’t the system we played which cost us on Saturday (against Hartlepool) – we certainly played decent enough football playing that way.

‘I think he has played well for us in recent months in midfield.

‘He is one of those who have lots of energy and is aware of things around him.

‘But when you have got a small squad you are trying to find players to come and help, players who are versatile and can play one or two positions.

‘That includes Johnny, and it’s great having that option with him around the place.’

Ertl made his Pompey debut back in September playing alongside Paul Connolly in the centre of defence. It was a match to forget for the new boy, as he netted an own goal and was substituted in the 1-0 loss against Oldham.

And it was be almost a month later before he made his next appearance – this time in midfield – but he has been a regular ever since.

Ertl’s positive outlook and likeable nature has earned him the Blues captaincy over the past four matches, ahead of Gabor Gyepes.

However, with Sam Sodje now at the club, there remains more central defensive options.

And that should allow Ertl to continue in the midfield position which brings out the best in him.