Andrew Nabbout - From unwanted Victory player to Jets A-League star

Andrew Nabbout Newcastle Jets
Forced to leave the country to find top-flight football, Andrew Nabbout has earned the right to be among the top players in the A-League

As Melbourne Victory captain Mark Milligan raised the 2014-15 A-League championship trophy, Andrew Nabbout could be seen smiling and celebrating on stage.

But he wasn't a player on the day. He was dressed in a suit and wasn't picked in the squad that beat Sydney FC 3-0 at AAMI Park.

In fact, Nabbout only made five league appearances during that season for 35 minutes of pitch time in total — it was clear the writing was on the wall.

"It’s always difficult for a young player trying to break through because it’s a club with such big expectations," Nabbout told Goal.

"Any coach is going to put out their strongest 11 to win every week because that’s what is expected and I accepted that.

"It kind of made me work harder and keep pushing for a spot, but it wasn’t to be unfortunately."

Andrew Nabbout

Nabbout was released by Victory shortly after their championship win but felt other top-flight opportunities would come.

They didn't.

"I took a couple of weeks off to rest the body but I was waiting for something to come up. I thought a club would have been interested at that point," he said.

"But unfortunately come the end of October when the new season started there was nothing on. I had a week-long trial with the Mariners which I thought went really well but unfortunately nothing came of it."

Running out of options, Nabbout was presented with an offer to join Malaysia's Negeri Sembilan, or he could drop back to an NPL club with many keen to take on his services.

It was a fall from grace for a player who once single-handedly put Sydney FC to the sword with a brace off the bench, but a step he needed to make if he wanted to continue his career.

Nabbout figured he could always return to the NPL if a stint in Malaysia failed, so why not give it a go?

The unique move to Malaysia saw Nabbout hit top form in a weaker league, with nine goals and eight assists in 12 games, but more importantly gave him belief in his own ability.

"It was a good experience for me because I gained a lot of confidence. The league wasn’t as good as the A-League but it helped me strengthen my attacking game," Nabbout said.

"It helped me realise what my strengths were and work harder on them every week and it was a good league to do that because the standard wasn’t as high as Australia."

Incredibly, Nabbout was released mid-season by Negeri Sembilan despite his stunning record and Newcastle Jets, then coached by Scott Miller, decided to pounce for the 2016-17 season

He won the Jets golden boot with eight goals, picked up the members player of the year and started to be mentioned by press for possible Socceroos selection.

Andrew Nabbout Newcastle Jets

It was a level of consistency that many thought he didn't have, and the player himself admits it was the lessons he learned through failure and complacency that helped raise his game.

"This time around (at the Jets) I know not to be complacent because at some points I kind of got a little bit comfortable at Victory," Nabbout said.

"They brought in players I didn’t know what to do cause I wasn’t playing as much as what I was.

"I took everything I learned about myself in Malaysia, everything I learned in my last year at Victory about not being complacent and working that extra little bit to get ahead — and so far at Newcastle it’s worked."

The Jets have only made the finals in the nine seasons since their only championship in 2007-08, but are sitting pretty currently in second position - five points behind Sydney FC but seven ahead of third-placed Melbourne City.

This form has continued on despite a horror injury run that has seen foreign stars Roy O'Donovan and Ronald Vargas be long-term absentees, forcing usual winger Nabbout to be deployed as a central striker.

In the unfamiliar role, Nabbout has contributed six goals and five assists in 12 matches, in a Jets attack that has scored 29 times — more than their goal totals for any of the past three campaigns.

Having added striker to the positions he can play, Nabbout has pundits calling for a Socceroos selection, but the player himself is remaining grounded.

"It’s on the back of every player’s mind. It’s a chance to put yourself in a shop window for the World Cup and of course that’s going to be playing on my mind especially as my name has been mentioned before," he said.

"If I keep playing the way I have been playing recently and hopefully keep going the rest of the season like this then if the call comes, it comes, and I’ll be more than ready and happy to take it.

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"Until then it’s club football and it’s number one on my mind."

It's not a bad situation for a player whose only thought two years ago was finding a club full stop.

Now he is among the top players in the Australia because of his bravery to make a unique move overseas and willingness to learn.