Yesterday, Johnny Ertl left Pompey by mutual consent. With the exception of Adam Webster, he was the last surviving member of the team that played in League 1 three seasons ago. He was the club captain after Brian Howard left, and has been captain ever since, when he has played. However, although he was by no stretch of the imagination the best player to put on the Pompey shirt, I feel he has been the most important of this era.
Ertl is a much-loved figure by the Fratton Faithful, mainly because of the way he is constantly committed and putting in 100% effort, however, he is also well-known for being a very nice person. He always has time to talk to fans before a game or to sign autographs for children at the side of the pitch. He regularly appeared at meetings of Supporters Clubs for various regions and was always a friendly face who fans felt at ease with. Many remember the time in 2013 when Pompey could not afford to pay anybody to work in the ticket office – up stepped Jonny Ertl! He and his wife manned the club ticket office, along with several other long-forgotten faces at the club, on a volunteer basis. This was the move that first endeared him into the hearts of Pompey fans, though there were many more.
Many also remember when Ertl made his debut for the club – scoring an own goal against Oldham. Despite his somewhat unreliable performances during the season, he ended it on a high by picking up the Fans’ Player of the Year Award in 2013. He scored his first goal for the club in the 2013-14 season, scoring against Cheltenham and celebrating with a jig by the corner flag that was labelled ‘embarrassing’ by fans and players alike. Or when he cut his head open against Fleetwood in 2014 and was practically wrestled off of the field by the team doctor to keep him from playing on.
However, Pompey fans’ fondest memory of Ertl will be the day he bought a share in the club he represented. He is a member of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and was the figurehead of the campaign to get supporters on board with the idea of fan ownership. Along with a few other current and ex players, Ertl made his pledge to the Club and finally, comprehensively became one of us. He had always been a fans’ favourite, but this action secured his place, by all accounts, as a fan. Ever since that day, he has been a Pompey legend, and will be fondly remembered by all Blues supporters. To the majority of fans, if you asked them to associate one man with fan ownership, the first person they would think of was Johnny Ertl. He has always been loyal to the club. Even in the past weeks, having been completely frozen out of the squad and with talks on his departure ongoing, he has been in the stands watching every one of Pompey’s pre-season friendlies, cheering on with the rest of the crowd.
This is why I think Johnny Ertl is the most important Pompey player of the modern era. He has the rare ability to connect with the supporters, his effort levels are through the roof and, most importantly, he is part of the reason that the club is still around.