Maybe it’s the way he responds to the net rippling that makes a Johnnie Jackson goal so special. The release of passion by facial expression, fist pumps and a knee slide, all contained in an instinctive movement towards his supporters. Players and fans wonderfully connected in a euphoric moment.
Or it could be his ability to so frequently triumph in times of adversity. Whether in the context of overall low confidence or simply during a game which the Addicks are trailing heavily in, a Jackson goal quickly reinvigorates his side and supporters. Hope restored, where it might merely seem a consolation if it were scored by another man.
You might also suggest it’s the manner of his goals that makes them feel like something above and beyond an ordinary strike. Not just game and mood changers, but match-winning, season-defining and historic goals regularly scored by the skipper.
And it’s a combination of those factors, in addition to everything else that contributes towards him being a club legend, that have made each of Johnnie Jackson’s 50 goals for Charlton Athletic a more incredible moment than the last. The nature of the man himself meaning a strike from the skipper feels twice as valuable as any other goal.
That especially true in times of dissatisfaction, disillusion and apathy. A rallying cry from a player whose background is heavily linked to the ownership that have caused such a degree of negative feeling among supporters is looked upon cynically. A rallying cry from a player who scored his first goal for the club, a header against Dagenham and Redbridge, in September 2010 inspires.
For Jackson has earned the unlimited trust, respect and admiration of Charlton fans with his continued whole-hearted efforts for the club. They know that, even in times of complete despair, summoning up the energy to support their captain will be rewarded. That he perfectly represents the supporters on the pitch, and takes great pride and pleasure in providing them with unforgettable moments.
In fact, the three goals the skipper has scored this season to take his tally for the club up to 50, in 209 games, are perfect examples of the marvellous occasions that every Jackson goal is. Perfect examples of the supporter-player bond, his determined character that allows him to triumph in times of adversity, and his continued ability to score the most important of goals.
The Addicks, both players and supporters, dead and buried against Fulham until Jackson left the bench. The cheer of expectation and enthusiasm from the crowd influential; his powerful headed goal that quickly followed instilling belief into supporters and teammates. Jordan Cousins may have got the equaliser, but it was Jackson’s goal that was celebrated with more vigour, knowing what was to come.
For many of Jackson’s most important goals for the club, and arguably the most historic, have not been winners, but those that have instigated incredible comebacks.
His two goals that sparked the unforgettable turnaround against Cardiff City just reward for the continued backing of the Covered End, and his strike against Bolton Wanderers not only the catalyst for another two-goal deficit to be overturned, but the catalyst of the eight game unbeaten run at the end of the 2012/13 season. On both of those occasions, Chris Powell and his side were under pressure, with the worry of relegation a serious one.
And when he is not single-handedly inspiring his teammates to come from behind to win, his goals frequently set the tone for what is to come. Fitting that it was Jackson who opened the scoring against Sheffield Wednesday, scoring Charlton’s first goal in over five games and providing the impetus for the Addicks to record their first win in 13. Again, his ability to overcome adversity, and fill both his side and his supporters with energy and belief, is sensational.
But so too has he been able to make joyful times even more enjoyable. His two emphatic penalties at London Road in the 2010/11 season helping to set up a 5-1 victory over Peterborough that has claimed cult status, his spot-kick against Bournemouth rounding off an impressive 3-0 victory that set the tone for the title-winning campaign, and his well-taken goal against Barnsley crippling their confidence in preparation for the record-breaking 6-0 win. Always contributing to the party.
If not contributing to it, then making the party. A vital Jackson winner in the tightest of games, at times when victories have been desperately needed, have sent supporters delirious on many occasions.
The most recent being his header, and 50th goal, against Birmingham. The Blues dominant in a game few expected the Addicks to win, but Jackson, celebrating with a knee slide well below his normal standards, scoring the goal that gave his side an unlikely victory, and lifting them out of the bottom three. Those in the away end at St Andrew’s losing themselves in yet another incredible moment supplied by their skipper.
And yet, as marvellous as that Birmingham winner was, it has nothing on the celebrations that have followed many other Jackson winners. The ones that have turned him from cult hero into club legend, and proven him to be the perfect leader of Charlton Athletic. Always finding a way to score when it is needed most.
An incredible game of twist and turns against Watford in January 2013 set up perfectly for Jackson’s header, and perfect knee slide, to secure a 4-3 victory for the Addicks. I have never celebrated a goal, and nor has the crowd-diving Jackson, like his stoppage-time header against QPR, and still find myself getting emotional watching it back given the importance of the win to both the club and Powell. The skipper’s late strike against Norwich last season, in a game that Charlton had faced constant pressure in, one of the few that comes close to that QPR moment.
Given the emotion it invokes, it’s arguably the QPR goal, heading Astrit Ajdarevic’s corner through Rob Green’s legs before setting off to hurdle over a gate that just about held back delirious Addicks, which stands out the most in his Charlton career show reel.
The adversity overcome substantial. Powell’s relegation-threatened side, dismantled further by Roland Duchatelet, holding off Harry Redknapp’s big-spending QPR for the majority of the game, before being frustrated as they began to pressurise the visitors in the closing moments. The character required to avoid defeat, let alone win the game, astonishing.
The release of pure delight simply unforgettable, if not repeatable. The figure that stood for everything so wonderful about the Addicks scoring a dramatic winner that had the potential to save Charlton’s season. The celebrations unreal.
The display of emotion between player and manager heart-warming. Jackson, as much as anyone else inside The Valley, knew the importance of that goal to Powell, and the relationship between the pair is an important part of both of their Charlton careers. The perfect representatives of this football club.
Others will point to the back-to-back free-kicks against the Sheffield clubs. The one at Wednesday expertly curled into the top corner, and giving the Addicks an advantage that allowed them to defend resolutely for the remainder of the game. The one against United an unstoppable strike, and allowing even the most cautious fans to finally believe that, as early as January, Charlton were going up.
Some might even suggest that his goal in the win over Watford, that helped secure Charlton’s Championship status, should be as celebrated, given the importance of the fixture. While Callum Harriott took most of the praise that night, it would not have been a defining night in this club’s recent history without a crucial Jackson goal. The man to triumph in adversity.
But to truly understand the sheer joy a Johnnie Jackson goal causes, in addition to the supporter-player relationship, a goal with lesser importance should be looked at.
True, the Addicks were trailing Peterborough at London Road in a game they could do with taking something from, but it was not a desperate situation prior to Callum Harriott feeding the skipper through to finish superbly and draw Charlton level. Fist pumps followed
However, had you been completely naïve of the context in February 2013, you might have thinking this was a season-defining goal judging by the response from the away end.
The terrace, containing a healthy number of Charlton supporters, bouncing as they sung the skipper’s name. Louder and louder, with increasing passion and meaning, as the actions of the other 21 players on the pitch in front of them became largely irrelevant.
But before they had stopped the chorus of “Johnnie, oh Johnnie Jackson runs down the wing for me”, those in the away end focused once again on the game itself. For less than five minutes after Jackson had pulled them level, inspired by momentum increased from the noise created by the Addicks, Danny Haynes had capitalised on a goal-mouth scramble and fired Charlton in front. Pandemonium, with the skipper’s strike the catalyst.
Even in games, and in moments, with lesser importance, a Jackson goal counts for so much more.
Why? Because there is a desire for Jackson to score more than any other player. It seems acceptable for even the most emotionless of men to express their love for the skipper in a way that would be more fitting of a 13-year-old girl towards her favourite boyband member.
The desire existing because of his longevity, his work ethic, and his passion.
The desire existing because of his leadership, ability to score defining goals, and unit supporters and players in his celebrations.
The desire existing because he represents a pure and perfect side of Charlton Athletic, connecting the Charlton that supporters are currently calling for with this one that still feels distant, if not poisoned.
But, more importantly than anything else, the desire exists because he gets it. He gets what this club means to its supporters. He’s one of us.
When Johnnie Jackson scores for Charlton, a fan is celebrating on the pitch. That fan has been lucky enough to score 50 more times than anyone else who joins in with his fist pumps and admires his knee slides.