Saying goodbye to Andrew Nabbout
Andrew Nabbout deserves his chance in the J.League and with the Socceroos07 March 2018 | Stuart Thomas
A few things made me happy this week. New carpet in my girls’ bedrooms, finishing the refurb on my home office, and shrewd investment on Melbourne Victory to win the derby that paid off handsomely.
However, the contract offered to Andrew Nabbout by Urawa Red Diamonds took the cake. My heart leapt with joy for a young Australian footballer whose sheer hard work has created knocks on the doors of international suitors.
Initially, my interest in Andrew was based purely on his heritage. Way back in 2012 whilst attempting to launch his career with the Melbourne Victory, the young and determined boy of Lebanese heritage caught my eye.
My wife was born in Tripoli and spent much of her youth in Basloukit, a picturesque Lebanese mountain village where the winter snow brings out all the beauty of the natural landscape. Our kids look more Londoner than Lebanese yet having them fully understand both sides of their bloodlines as we raised them, has been equally important to both mum and dad.
Thus, Nabbout became a bit of a family favourite and with some good performances for then manager, Ange Postecoglou, his future appeared bright.
Sadly, 2013-14 proved a disappointment as new manager Kevin Muscat preferred other wide-attackers and Nabbout’s game time dwindled.
The desperation on his face at the time clearly portrayed his frustration and told me a lot about the man behind the broad shoulders and chiselled features.
Lebanon were keen to add Nabbout to their national squad and with diminishing opportunities in Australia, it was a good time to make a play for an impressionable twenty year old.
A proud Australian, Nabbout took a completely different path by expressing his desire to play at the 2014 World Cup for his former mentor Postecoglou.
Despite being nowhere near the level required at that stage, Nabbout needed his intention to be a Socceroo clearly stated. He also wanted a realistic sense of expectation. What did he need and have to do to put himself in the selection frame? What were his strengths and weaknesses and where could he improve?
In a tale that reminds us of the current situation with Daniel Arzani and the young Melbourne City stars’ pending decision on national loyalties, Nabbout wanted Postecoglou to know that he was a Socceroo in waiting.
Importantly, Arzani is courted as a potential superstar whereas Nabbout probably had only his family, friends and my household believing in his future representative capabilities.
To me, Nabbout always looked like a winner; a player who would never be happy sitting on the pine and supporting loyally. As honourable as that is, Nabbout had grander plans and without a club after his release from Victory, he found a new home in Malaysia.
It was to be a short stay and after nine goals in fourteen appearances for Negeri Sembilan, Nabbout was once again without a club.
In the face of uncertainty and admission that things had not turned out as planned, Nabbout did what all people of courage do.
He regathered his thoughts, recalibrated and kept going.
That determination and dedication needs to be identified and it was the Newcastle Jets that spotted it and took a punt on Nabbout in the midst of a rebuild.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nabbout has been one of the Jets’ best and compiled forty six impressive games, yet 2017-18 has seen an ascension in his stocks that few would have predicted.
Perhaps the most influential opportunity for Nabbout has been the chance to be mentored by veteran coach Ernie Merrick. The now J.League player is the archetypical Merrick footballer, from the same mould as another of his developmental successes, Roy Krishna.
Merrick loves men who work hard, run all day and explode with the ball, launching it time after time into dangerous areas without hesitation. Pace is the key and both Nabbout and Krishna are blessed with the raw speed that Merrick loves to utilise.
It has been a world wind month for the 25 year-old and the outside of his right boot has surely played a role in securing an international contract with the Japanese powerhouse.
It is the way of the A-League that our best head to foreign shores and something of which we can be proud. We should always remember their early years, as we may not see the likes of Nabbout in A-League colours for a very long time; perhaps ever.
A very small part of me was sad when I heard the news. It was my selfish inner voice; more interested in my own entertainment than people achieving their best.
More dominant was the feeling of joy for Andrew and his future. Watching him in Russia would be satisfying, as though my early admiration of his talent and belief in his skills had come full circle.
He is almost there.
I have little doubt that Andrew Nabbout will succeed in whatever he does. Whether it be this stint in Japan or somewhere else in the future, but the A-League has given world football another gem and we should be pleased with our little conveyor belt that continues to produce.