ANDY AWFORD has revealed the reasons for bringing Johnny Ertl in from the Pompey wilderness.
The Blues caretaker boss believes the midfielder epitomises the kind of spirit his team needs over the season’s finale.
Ertl returned to the fray at Newport County on Saturday in the crucial 2-1 win for his side.
The 31-year-old was his usual combative self at Rodney Parade, as he anchored midfield with new boy Danny Hollands.
It was the Austrian’s first start for three months after he had completely fell out of favour under former manager Richie Barker.
Ertl had been reduced to just a couple of late, late runouts off the bench in that time.
But Awford had no hesitation in bringing him back into the team after being named boss last week.
He felt Ertl summed up the ‘Pompey spirit’ which has been strongly referenced through his opening days as manager.
Awford admitted there appeared to be some understandable nerves as Ertl came in from the cold.
He was delighted with the extra steel he gave his side, though.
‘I felt we needed a bit of Pompey spirit back in the team, and Johnny gave us that,’ said Awford.
‘I know Johnny has his limitations – and I mean that respectfully to him.
‘But Johnny knows what Johnny is good at and I know what Johnny is good at.
‘So Saturday was a good game for him. It was a game which was suited to Johnny Ertl.
‘He took 10 minutes to get going, but once he got going he was fine.
‘He was probably a bit nervous because it’s been a while since he started.
‘But he was terrific, as they all were.’
The esteem Ertl is held in by his new boss was seen as he was also given the captain’s armband.
Awford knows there is extra responsibility which comes with that duty.
But he had no doubts about handing the former Sheffield United man that role once again.
‘He hasn’t played for a long time but he is the captain of this football club,’ said Awford.
‘So he is carrying a bit on his shoulders.
‘I had no problem with handing him the armband at all.’
Ertl was his usual solid self on Saturday and there were some impressive performances elsewhere as Pompey looked a rejuvenated outfit.
Ricky Holmes delivered a man-of-the-match display, playing on the left of an attacking trio behind Ryan Taylor.
Awford had praise for the graft Holmes puts into his game.
That has been evident through the season, with the 26-year-old one of the few consistent performers in a tumultuous campaign.
Awford feels there is no doubt the players at the club have been underperforming this season.
While some have questioned the quality of players at the club, the boss has no doubt they are good enough, however.
‘They shouldn’t be where they are,’ said Awford.
‘They know that and I know that.
‘Ricky is a good player. He gives you an outlet.
‘Ricky offers pace and he is a hard-working player.
‘He will put a shift in for you.’