Ertl set to join list of cult greats

Cult hero: Johnny Ertl
Cult hero: Johnny Ertl

Johnny Ertl, step forward and take your gritty bow.

The Blues captain is now on the fast track to joining a select list of Fratton favourites from down the years.

Graceful and gifted they perhaps aren’t, but loved and appreciated they most certainly are.

There’s no doubt the Austrian ticks the right boxes.

A battler who is about honest endeavour over flashy skill, graft over craft and more artisan than artist.

He’s a champion of the underdog in the making: Ertl the Turtle is becoming a Pompey cult hero.

And what a select group those players with a special place in the hearts of the Fratton Faithful are.

The likes of Mick Tait, Mick Kennedy, Bjorn Kristensen, George Lawrence, John Durnin, and more recently Jamie O’Hara and Linvoy Primus, have all been afforded the lofty status.

They are men who delve into the psyche of Pompey fans and tell you much about their football philosophy.

What these players certainly do is reinforce the royal blue truism that any limitations in ability will be accepted, if they believe the players representing them are putting a shift in for the shirt.

The manner in which they find themselves embraced by supporters is fascinating.

Putting it mildly, the jury was out on Ertl earlier in the campaign.

Some indifferent defensive displays, when he was playing catch-up on his fitness, hardly suggested promise.

But a switch to midfield has been the making of the 30-year-old.

Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford were impressed enough to hand Ertl the captain’s armband at the start of 2013 – and he hasn’t looked back since.

A desire to be a part of the city they proudly represent has been a constant among the cult clan, too.

Being a part of the Pompey community and taking on the Portsea Island mentality has been a recurring theme.

Ertl has certainly done that, soaking up information on the city’s history and making every effort to become entwined with its culture.

Juxtapose that attitude with the millionaires who wouldn’t even consider heading down the M275 for anything other than a matchday in years gone by.

What many fans wouldn’t realise, is Ertl is also a very, very nice fella.

His commitment to the cause in trying times has remained absolute, and he has built a genuine affinity with the star and crescent in his time here.

But it’s on-the-pitch moments which lift the crowd that always prove key.

One of those arrived at Doncaster on Saturday as Ertl slipped, but still showed the determination to find a blue shirt while laying on the deck. A particular tone of ‘wahay!’ is the cheer these incidents are accompanied by.

So why do these players become revered at Fratton Park while others fall by the wayside?

This season alone, the likes of Izale McLeod and Brian Howard have been given short shrift by supporters.

Their eyes told them they were watching players with ability far in excess of Ertl’s, but were lacking when it came to the requisite drive – a Pompey crime.

It tells you much about the Pompey mentality that Howard and McLeod are long gone, while Ertl is flourishing.

Don’t think it’s always this way at all clubs, though. Can you imagine these cult favourites going down the same at, say, Spurs where the belief among many of their followers is the beautiful game is the minimum requirement?

No, these men flourish at working-class outfits, and perhaps the frequency in which they appear around PO4 is peculiar even to Pompey.

And that really is the key. Those who pay their cash to follow Pompey want to see a bit of themselves in their team.

That means there will always be a place for cult heroes like Johnny Ertl around these parts.