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Crystal Palace's Austrian Eagles

16 July 2014

With Crystal Palace preparing to round off their week-long training camp in Austria with a pre-season friendly against GAK Graz this evening, takes a look at the only two Austrian players ever to have represented the Eagles. 

Johnny Ertl (Crystal Palace, July 2008-June 2010)

Born in Graz, the city that hosts Crystal Palace this evening, Johnny Ertl began his career with his hometown club, Sturm Graz, as an academy youngster in 1996.

The defensive midfielder earned himself a professional contract by 2003, before spending a successful loan spell at SC Kalsdorf, where he bagged three goals in 11 games. 

Upon his return to Graz, Ertl became more of a utility man and was primarily employed as a centre back rather than in his preferred anchoring midfield role, failing to add to his goal tally in his 61 games for the club

A move to Austria Vienna followed and his performances at the heart of back line earned him international recognition, making his debut for his country in a game against Hungary in 2006. 

Two years later, with seven Austrian caps now to his name, Ertl moved to England with Crystal Palace, making 13 appearances in his debut season. 

In 2009/10, Ertl featured much more regularly, playing 38 times and scoring his first and only goal for the club in a memorable 2-2 draw against Premier League side Aston Villa in the FA Cup. He also played in the historic 2-2 draw at Hillsborough on the final day of that season as Palace escaped relegation to League One. 

By the end of that campaign, during which Palace entered administration, Ertl was allowed to leave the club on a free transfer to join Sheffield United. 

He suffered relegation from the Championship in his first season with the Blades though and a cruciate knee ligament injury ruled him out for most of the 2011/12 League One campaign.

Now at Portsmouth in League Two, 31-year-old Ertl has become a fan favourite and club captain – despite scoring an own goal on his debut in September 2012.

Besian Idrizaj (Crystal Palace, August 2007-January 2008)

The late Besian Idrizaj started his professional career with Austrian outfits Admira Linz and LASK Linz, netting four goals in 35 appearances for the latter club. 

Despite his modest strike, Idrizaj’s performances up front earned him Austria’s Player of the Year award in 2005 – and a trial with Premier League side Liverpool, who duly signed him on a two-year deal that summer.

His dream move to Anfield didn’t work out though and the frontman failed to make a competitive first team appearance for the Reds, despite rattling in a 26-minute hat-trick in a July 2007 friendly against Wrexham. 

A month after that impressive three-goal salvo, Idrizaj joined Crystal Palace on a season-long loan deal, making his debut as a replacement for Clinton Morrison in the 1-0 home defeat to Charlton Athletic in September 2007.

By January though, Idrizaj had made just three starts and four further substitute appearances in red and blue without scoring, prompting then-manager Neil Warnock to send him back to Merseyside.

During a loan stint back in Austria with Wacker Innsbruck, Idrizaj collapsed on the pitch in a game against Sturm Graz, but medical tests indicated it occurred as a result of a virus rather than a heart problem and he was allowed to continue his footballing career. 

Idrizaj’s contract with Liverpool was terminated at the end of the 2007/08 season but, after a year in Germany, the forward was back in the UK with Swansea City. 

Tragically, on 15th May 2010, just days after his first Championship season with the Swans had come to an end, Idrizaj died in his sleep aged just 22. 

Following Swansea’s win over Reading in the Championship Play-Off Final a year later, the Swans squad sported t-shirts featuring Idrizaj’s photo and name on them, while the club also retired the No.40 shirt in his honour.  

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