Ertl tipped for more of emergency Pompey role

Johnny Ertl. Picture: Joe Pepler
Johnny Ertl. Picture: Joe Pepler

Johnny Ertl has been backed to shine as Pompey’s emergency central defender.

The experienced midfielder has found his team role altering during the pre-season campaign.

Several times the former Sheffield United man has filled in at the centre of defence as a substitute, most recently in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Charlton.

Ertl, of course, made his Blues debut in September 2012 as a central defender against Oldham.

He ended up scoring a decisive own goal and being substituted in the 1-0 defeat under Michael Appleton.

Since then he has started just twice in the role, with managers preferring him in the centre of midfield.

But Andy Awford would have no hesitation in utilising the 31-year-old in a defensive position.

He said: ‘I quite like Johnny as a centre half and watched him play there earlier in his career.

‘I think we all know he prefers to play in the middle of the park and that is probably where he is best, in a three sat there between two others breaking the play up.

‘I am sure he will play that role for us at some point this season.

‘But if I need him to slot in at centre half then I know he can.

‘This season I have given him minutes in the centre of defence in case we ever need to call upon him in that position – and I definitely would consider him.

‘He has had a lot of games in his career but if I feel we need a bit of experience in the team right the way through it then I can drop him in there.’

Competition for the role has been increased with yesterday’s arrival of Paul Robinson on an initial month’s loan from Millwall.

He will join Jack Whatmough, Ben Chorley, Joe Devera, Alex Wynter and, of course, Ertl as options for Awford.

Meanwhile, Ricky Holmes and Ryan Taylor are today pencilled in for a Pompey training return.

The duo have recently been absent through injury, missing several pre-season fixtures.

However, they are now expected to come back and put themselves in the frame for Saturday’s League Two opener at Exeter.