Jets move has Nabbout on verge of Socceroos
FOURTEEN months ago Andrew Nabbout had hit a footballing dead-end at just 22.
Dumped by the Melbourne Victory, deals with A-League battlers Newcastle and Central Coast collapsed and he was without a club for six months with a state league return beckoning.
Today Nabbout is the Newcastle Jets' key weapon and eyeing off a Socceroos berth, citing former teammate James Jeggo as his role model.
It's been a roller-coaster career for Nabbout, headlined by his Victory stint.
Plucked from obscurity by Ange Postecoglou, he produced arguably the most memorable Victory debut, coming off the bench at Sydney FC to score a brace and secure a 3-2 win.
"The debut was unbelievable, it put me on the map and set the standard really high, which I tried hard to reach, but it's hard,” Nabbout said.
"You have to come on and make a difference and if you don't you go in the black book so to speak, they look past you next time they want to make a sub and you find yourself on the bench for five, six, seven weeks.
"As a kid you have to embrace it. When big players are on, they don't want to come off and coaches sometimes don't want to take them off.
"Players came in like (Besart) Berisha, (Kosta) Barbarouses, (Fahid) Ben Khalfallah and they make it harder for a younger player like me to get game time. It was cut-throat.
"You get to a point where your career hits a plateau. Leaving Victory was tough because it's a huge club and it started so well. I don't regret anything.
"The Victory players that have moved on (Connor Pain, Scott Galloway), we've all got more game time and doing well. Sometimes you have to veer off the path.”
Monday night is the first time Nabbout will return to play in front of the fans where he was once a cult hero.
Victory fans chanted "Nabbout, Nabbout, Nabbout is on fire” to the Bloodhound Gang tune Fire Water Burn (aka The Roof Is On Fire).
His second A-League crack came after a stellar Malaysian stint with Negeri Sembilan FA, scoring eight goals in 12 games.
"I'm just enjoying it, as opposed to previous years where I felt under pressure,” he said.
"Confidence and game time are the two big things for me and at Newcastle I'm getting it.
"The hardest point in my career was being released by Victory, my career was up in the air.
"I was only 21 and didn't know where I was heading. The gig in Malaysia got that confidence back in my ability and the rest is history.”
While Lebanon is still knocking, Nabbout's dream is to play for the Socceroos - and who's to argue.
Despite missing several games with an ankle injury, he's scored three goals in nine games and is among the leaders in the Newscorp A-League player of the year votes.
"I need to continue my form, that's my short-term goal, but I strive to play for the Socceroos and I won't shy away from that,” Nabbout said.
"It's always been a dream for me to play for the national team and Ange is looking into the A-League.
"Jimmy (Jeggo) is a good example to follow. He was off the radar like me, and went to a different club and kicked on and eventually got a Socceroos call-up.
"There have been a few inquiries (from Lebanon), but now that I'm back and doing well I'll try as hard as I can to play for the Socceroos.”