IF it was his last-ever appearance for the Newcastle Jets, Andrew Nabbout left fans with the fondest of memories.
The dynamic winger/striker produced one of the performances of his career on Saturday, capping a tireless contribution with the match-winning goal in the 2-1 victory against Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium.
In the 56th minute, he weaved from outside the box on the left-hand side of the field and rifled a low shot that beat a diving Andrew Redmayne into the bottom right-hand corner.
Nabbout has attracted interest from Japanese club Urawa Reds and is pondering a move that would earn the Jets a $500,000 transfer fee in exchange for their leading scorer.
“In the Japanese league there’s a window, which isn’t very long, whereby they can sign players,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick said after Saturday’s game.
“If he happens to go in that window, we would wish him all the best. He’s been a great servant for this club. He’s delivered, last year as well. If it’s an opportunity for him to go to a bigger team, in another country, we would certainly wish him all the best.”
Nabbout told Foxtel after the game: “I’m not sure. Like we said midweek, there’s interest, like there’s been all year. I just wanted to give the fans the recognition they deserved because they pushed us through that at the end.
“They were immense for us. They were our 12th man for us, so to speak.”
Nabbout has scored 18 goals in 46 A-League games since joining the Jets last season. Only Joel Griffiths (34), Ryan Griffiths (19) and Matt Thompson (19) have found the net more often for Newcastle.
Merrick, however, was confident Newcastle could adequately replace Nabbout. South American imports Ronny Vargas (ankle) and Pato Rodriguez (calf) are expected to be available for the next game, against Wellington in Auckland on Saturday week.
Merrick was also hopeful skipper Nigel Boogaard, who limped off with a knee injury against Sydney, would be fit to tackle the Phoenix.
“He jarred his knee,” Merrick said. “It’s the same leg, but it’s not the same as what happened last time.”
“Again we’ll be conservative, but Lachy Jackson came on and did a great job.”