A LOT has happened since Johnny Ertl last donned a Sheffield United shirt.
The Bramall Lane outfit have been relegated to League One, Danny Wilson has replaced Micky Adams as manager and a string of senior players have been sold to tackle the club’s mounting debt.
But things are now on the up for both United and Ertl. Despite a recent dip in form, Wilson’s men are handilyplaced in fifth position in the table while Ertl is edging closer to a first-team return after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
It was in
March the likeable Austrian sustained a cruciate knee ligament injury in a reserve fixture with Nottingham Forest. Ertl said he twisted his knee after he got his studs caught in the turf.
Now, after getting 90 minutes under his belt in the reserves’ 1-1 draw with Derby County in midweek, Ertl has
spoken of his relief at being back in the fold. He is expected to start for the second string again at Forest next week and he hopes to be considered for selection for the Chesterfield clash.
“I’ve been back in training for a couple of weeks now and I played in a behind-closed-doors match against Leeds a few weeks ago,” he told The Star. “I feel really good and I just want to keep on progressing.
“It is unbelievable to be back. It has been a long road.”
United have sorely missed Ertl, who boasts a wealth of experience, having played for Sturm Graz, Austria Vienna and Crystal Palace.
His ability to play in a number of positions, ranging from right-back to defensive midfield, suggest he is likely to be an influential figure in Wilson’s squad for the remainder of the campaign.
“It doesn’t matter where I play; it is all about the team,” he said. “I will play where ever the gaffer wants me to play.
“The most important thing is we stick together and we have a great season.”
Ertl believes his injury nightmare has made him a stronger person.
“This [the injury] has just been a little blip in my career but this sort of thing makes you stronger,” he said. “I want to make sure I come back fitter and stronger than before.”
The 29-year-old has paid tribute to pop singer girlfriend Selma Adzem and his family for their backing throughout the tough times.
“My girlfriend has moved to Sheffield and she has given me great support along with my family and the rest of the club,” he said.
“There have been ups and downs along the way but it is fantastic to be back.”
Ertl is aiming to be included in the squad for the trip to the b2Net Stadium.
“I have little bits and bobs to do in training but I’m not far off,” he said. “There is another reserve game on Monday so I will probably play in that.
“I’m close to being ready and I just hope I can help my teammates out when the manager calls upon me.”
In his first season at United, Ertl made 30 appearances.
“I see my injury as a little break and now I want to kick on,” he said.