Such are the inspirational qualities of Johnnie Jackson, a man paralyzed below the waist could run a marathon after taking in one of his rallying cries.
Inspiring a group of professional footballers, many of which have difficulty coordinating their legs, to avoid what is becoming an increasingly likely relegation, therefore, should be a simple task for the skipper.
Injecting some sort of belief into supporters disillusioned and demoralised, both with performances and the overall state of their football club, an even simpler one. The legendary status of Jackson, and the sense that he shares our pain, means his message ahead of Saturday’s home game against Blackburn Rovers does not feel like a token gesture.
There is genuine meaning in his heartfelt cry for support for his side. A short message that has done more to motivate supporters than anything Roland Duchatelet, Katrien Meire and Richard Murray have provided over the past two years. Unifying supporters and club in the same way the insulting words of those above the skipper have divided.
But, like Jackson has said himself, those words are meaningless if they are not supported with performances worthy of the badge. They are meaningless should the Addicks capitulate emphatically once again. If the performances of those on the pitch reflect the shambolic state of the club off it.
Fight has been promised. We need to see it, and not just from the protesting supporters.
LAST MEETING – BLACKBURN ROVERS 3-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
A sluggish Charlton performance was suitably punished at Ewood Park in September, with Blackburn recording a deserved three-goal victory.
The hosts, who dominated much of the first half but struggled to find a way past a defiant Nick Pope, finally took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Jordan Rhodes capitalising upon some questionable Addicks defending from a corner, and able to turn in Grant Hanley’s flick-on.
It took until 15 minutes from time before the two-goal advantage they had long deserved was secured, with Tom Lawrence easily beating Morgan Fox before crossing for Rhodes to double Blackburn’s lead.
And a third was added ten minutes later, as Lawrence took advantage of an opening inside Charlton’s box and drilled an effort beyond the hapless Pope. The efforts of those meant to be protecting the goalkeeping again questionable.
A relatively hard-fought victory for Blackburn’s ten men against League Two Newport County in the FA Cup on Monday may, on the surface, not seem like that important a result. The 2-1 win, irrespective of Chris Brown’s early sending off, the absolute minimum expected.
But with Rovers without a win in their previous six, ending that run ahead of this weekend’s trip to The Valley was vital. As vital as where Paul Lambert’s Blackburn go from here.
For the start the Ewood Park club enjoyed under the former Aston Villa boss, winning three and drawing two of their first five after he replaced Gary Bowyer, was certainly promising. A refreshed Lambert injecting some life into a club crippled by a transfer embargo.
But the poor run that followed, including a defeat to bottom-of-the-table Bolton, has increased doubts over the potential of the club to achieve under Lambert.
Some solace can be taken in the fact that the defeats under their new boss have all been by one goal, and fears of relegation are non-existent, but wins are going to need to be recorded soon.
Such was the extent of the suffering during a nightmare week for the Addicks, the embarrassing FA Cup exit to Colchester United at the start of it has almost been forgotten.
For the severity of the defeats at Huddersfield Town and Hull City emphatically eclipsed the tame performance in the cup. Five and six-nil defeats just punishment for a side lacking any sort of fight or effort.
Not even the re-appointment of Jose Riga, replacing the hopeless “interim” Karel Fraeye, has been enough to provide the sort of lift required. Supporters all too aware that the situation he finds himself in now is vastly different to the one at the end of the 2013/14 season, were safety was secured.
At the very least, safety appears much further away than the four points the league table would suggest it is. Mathematically, it remains a couple of positive results away, but the performances and attitude of this side suggest a couple of positive results are some way off.
Blackburn will welcome back, and welcome, a host of players after failing to field a full 18 for Monday’s FA Cup victory over Newport County.
A combination of injuries, with Fode Koita, Nathan Delfouneso, Jason Lowe and Shane Duffy all in the treatment room, and the club’s transfer embargo meant Blackburn were only able to name five substitutes at Rodney Parade. A situation worsened by Matthew Kilgallon pulling out through illness and Lee Williamson pulling up during the warm-up with a calf injury.
But centre-back Kilgallon is likely to be available, along with new addition Elliot Ward, who joined this week after being released by Bournemouth.
Recent signing Simeon Jackson, who was ineligible for the cup encounter, is also set to be involved, while fellow striker Danny Graham, who has joined on loan from Sunderland, will be in the squad for the trip to SE7. A timely boost to Lambert’s forward options, with Brown serving a suspension following his dismissal at Newport.
Jorge Teixeira is available to make his debut for Charlton after the centre-back signed from Standard Liege in the week.
And given the 11 goals the Addicks have conceded in their previous two games, many of which were the result of defensive errors, the Portuguese is likely to come straight into the starting XI. Both Roger Johnson and Rhys Williams will do extremely well to keep their place in the side.
There could also be changes further forward, with Ademola Lookman pushing for a return after his hamstring injury, and Tony Watt back at the club after his move to Cardiff fell through. Reza Ghoochannejhad, having served a one-game suspension following his red card during the defeat to Huddersfield, is also available.
But Patrick Bauer, Alou Diarra and Ahmed Kashi remain absent.
KEY BATTLE – STOPPING/TRAPPING/HARMING JORDAN RHODES
With his side set to play Charlton this weekend, it was incredibly predictable that regular Addicks tormentor Rhodes would relocate his scoring boots in the lead up to it.
The normally prolific forward had gone nine games without a goal before striking at Newport on Monday night. A timely confidence boost as he looks to add to the six goals scored against Charlton in his previous three games against them.
His superb movement has allowed him to get into scoring potions on numerous occasions, and his finishing against the Addicks has, undoubtedly, been classy. But too often have those in Charlton’s defence gifted the former Huddersfield forward his openings.
Andre Bikey, Tal Ben Haim and Pope left embarrassed at Ewood Park in December 2014. Roger Johnson gifting Rhodes his two goals at The Valley last season. Defensive organisation and resolve collectively lacking as the Scotland international grabbed another two against the Addicks in September.
Pressure, therefore, on Teixeira to prove his worth in the English game immediately. Defenders with big reputations in this division have been outclassed by Rhodes, and the Portuguese debutant will need to step up and prevent the Addicks from capitulating once again.
Failing that, lock him up wherever Katrien Meire has been hiding this week. Or set some angry protesters upon him prior to kick-off.
Home games against sides in the bottom half of the division are absolute must wins if we want to avoid relegation. The recovery from the previous two weeks, however, isn’t going to be automatic. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Blackburn Rovers