Andrew Nabbout may be a genuine chance to win the Johnny Warren Medal as the A-League’s best this season, but the high-flying Jets winger revealed he questioned whether he would get back into the A-League after being deemed not good enough for the worst performing n side in the competition’s history.
As the 24-year-old winger was languishing at the problematic Malaysian Premier League club Negeri Sembilan, he watched on as the club that rejected him slumped to a disastrous season. Nabbout had spent weeks on trial at Central Coast Mariners hoping to land a deal, but was deemed surplus to requirements in a team that finished with less points than any other n club in the 10 seasons prior.
As the Gosford club struggled to compete in games last year, it was only natural that Nabbout doubted whether he was good enough to return to the top tier of n football while languishing at a Malaysian club.
“I began to doubt myself, not because of my own performances, but the people around me [in Malaysia],” Nabbout said. “I was grateful to be on trial with the Mariners last year, but for whatever reason they didn’t want to sign me.
“I did look at it from Malaysia and I wish I could have been there to do something. I could have changed it or maybe had some input to make it better. But everything happens for a reason and I’m happy here at Newcastle.”
The Mariners’ loss was Newcastle’s gain.
While all the player of the year talk has been about Sydney’s Milos Ninkovic and Melbourne Victory’s Marco Rojas, Nabbout is a strong candidate, given his scintillating performances in a team thin on star power.
Some pundits have already begun calling for his selection in the n team based on his recent form and while those are premature, there’s always the chance his ancestral home of Lebanon may beat them to the player. Nabbout’s desire remains to play for the Socceroos if a chance ever presented itself, however he admitted it would be similarly hard to knock back Lebanon, who have been keeping tabs on his progress since 2013.
“They’ve contacted me a few times, but I’m concentrating on the league now, playing as many goals as possible and getting as much game time,” Nabbout said. “They said they wanted to bring me in; it was a real honour.”
The Lebanon Football Association embarked on a program to bring in all talented players from their diaspora into the fold for their national team. Players from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Mexico have recently been part of the Cedars set-up. n-born defender Buddy Farah became a regular for Lebanon, which has also sought to cap Tarek and Ahmad Elrich in the past. Nabbout said he was open to the idea of representing his parents’ country of birth, though he had not had any direct talks with current coach Miodrag Radulovic.
“To be recognised at the national stage is massive,” he said. “I’m born here, I appreciate that and I’m proud of where my parents came from. It’s an honour, but I’ll work as hard as I can to put on that green and gold.”