There’s little sentiment in football. There are no passengers. The old or infirm are got rid of by their clubs at the earliest opportunity.
So it’s bizarre many fans see Johnnie Jackson’s role in the Charlton squad as a token gesture. That he is some sort of team mascot or a coach-in-waiting.
It’s very strange because the 33-year-old is a vital ingredient otherwise missing from this Charlton side.
The kids at Charlton – the starting front six had an average age of just 21 in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Fulham – are quite rightly the future.
But the last few weeks have exposed those kids, especially at the thrashing at Crystal Palace, for their naivety.
They don’t know how to banish doubts in times of crisis. They don’t know how to call upon their self-belief and, most importantly, inspire that belief in others.
The moment he came on against Fulham – with just 10 minutes left and at 2-0 down - Jackson marched into the box and powered in a header.
He knew exactly where the ball was going and what to do with it.
With new-found confidence, The Valley, which previous had an atmosphere akin to the moon so dejected were the fans, was home to huge belief.
Jackson then deflected a great Fulham chance wide before, six minutes into injury time, the side was level thanks to Jordan Cousins.
A stunning comeback.
Afterwards manager Guy Luzon was full of praise for the club captain who scored with his first touch.
Those who thought Luzon doubted Jackson’s worth were surprised to hear him gushing in his post-match interview. “He adds experience, character, leadership, and, finally, he also adds quality.
“There were some occasions in the season where I wanted him to play but unfortunately he was injured in a Friday or a Thursday during warm-ups. He has been unlucky with injury and I just hope he will be fit.
“Football is a game of momentum. The goal he scored changed the momentum. The goal gave us back the confidence to play.”
But too many of the fans see Jackson as the past.
“His legs are gone” is a theory regularly bandied about.
Many would have said the same about Andy Hughes in Charlton’s promotion season to the Championship. Yet that midfielder’s presence in the Charlton first team saw the Addicks go on a huge unbeaten run.
His ability to stand in the middle of the pitch and calm everyone down was pivotal to that.
Jackson offers the same. And more.
Among his dozens of goals have been a number of crucial ones. Not least the winner against QPR of two years ago, or the two goals in the back-to-back Sheffield clashes in 2012 or his unforgettable brace against Cardiff in the 5-4 win later that year.
I can’t think of a more free-scoring Charlton midfielder. And as well as his aerial threat , he’s a set-piece expert.
But mostly, like Luzon said, it’s his leadership Charlton need.
Never write off Jackson – the missing piece in the jigsaw.
Luzon gave Nick Pope the dreaded vote of confidence after the keeper’s blunder gifted Fulham the lead.
The manager said Pope was his first choice at the start of the season and such a mistake does not mean he should be dropped. Let’s hope the fans offer the same loyalty towards the keeper, especially after two brilliant saves in Sunday’s draw.