The potential of a home Play-Off fixture aside, Saturday's game against Blackburn represents the last opportunity for our talismanic skipper to run out onto The Valley turf in a Charlton shirt. At the end of this season, Johnnie will draw to a close a playing career of nearly 500 games (over half for Charlton) and close to 80 goals and concentrate solely on coaching. Whether or not he is fit enough to play any part in Saturday's game remains to be seen, as is the likelihood of him being involved even if he is fit, but there cannot be a single Charlton fan that would deny Johnnie the chance to 'run down the wing for me' one last time!
The memories of Johnnie, the player, are endless, but there are a few that stand out for me personally. I was luck enough to have witnessed first hand the knee slide after his late, late winner at Watford in January '13 and the sheer delirium after his stoppage time goal against QPR at The valley in Feb '14. But for me, my favourite Jacko moment has to be the way he dragged us almost single-handily back from the dead in the 5-4 Cardiff classic in Nov '12. Others would have been even luckier to have been present when inside the space of a week Johnnie defeated the two Sheffield clubs with two wonderful free kicks and witnessed more of his trademark knee-slides after vital goals at Ipswich and Norwich away. Watching Johnnie lift the League One Championship trophy in May '12 still lifts the hairs on the back of my neck to this day.
The list goes on...
Of course, Johnnie's legacy extends far beyond vital goals. Johnnie was instantly believable in a Charlton shirt. He understood what playing for Charlton meant and what we expected of him and his fellow players. He knew we'd back him 100% if he just gave everything he had, and there cannot be a question mark over that. Better still, Johnnie gets what Charlton means to us, the fan. He felt our pain during low moments and has a history of providing a response of some kind, either on the pitch, or by his actions off it. As our captain, he had a welcome habit of saying the right things at the right time. Notably, after the heartbreaking Sheffield United FA Cup QF defeat in March '14 Johnnie took to twitter to single-handedly apologies to each and every fan that reached out to him. An incredible gesture. How many modern day footballers would do that? How many would care enough?
It seems inconceivable looking back that Johnnie never picked up the PoTY award.
In my son's bedroom are framed images of Sasa Illic saving that peno and Super Clive holding the cup above his head in '98. There's also a photo of Sir Chris Powell holding aloft a Charlton scarf on the day he took over as manager. My boy wouldn't have lived through the history of these guys personally; it's memories past down through me and his nan. But alongside these heroes is a photo of Johnnie, arms aloft after scoring a goal. My boy is of an age to have pretended to be Johnnie in the garden countless times. One such occasion I remember him replicating a JJ headed goal over and over again until he'd got it exactly right.
Thank you, Johnnie. You've stuck with us through thick, thin and even thinner. You will rightly be lorded as a legend; in illustrious company as one of the greatest captains our club has ever had. I hope you continue to have a long association with Charlton.
On those occasions when I allow myself to dream, I still see one last glory moment for our skipper. Lifting a certain piece of silverware at a rather large London venue. No one deserves it more.