Fitzgerald could be Merrick’s Nabbout 2.0

Andrew Nabbout arrived at the Newcastle Jets in 2016 looking for a lifeline to a football career that had failed to really take off despite flashes of brilliance.

Less than two seasons under Jets boss Ernie Merrick and Nabbout had turned into a lethal attacker, earned a lucrative move to J-League side Urawa Red Diamonds and a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad with the Caltex Socceroos. 

Now, as the Jets return for their first day of pre-season ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season, Merrick believes he has found another player who can have a similar impact as Nabbout did in the Hunter.

Like Nabbout, Nick Fitzgerald has arrived at the Jets looking to re-ignite his career after a forgettable 2018/19 campaign with Western Sydney Wanderers.

“I’ve always admired Nick from a distance,” Merrick told reporters on Monday.

“My style of striker is someone who gets in behind and is quick and loves to get into goal scoring positions on a regular basis but can also play wide and knock in crosses and deliver to other players as well.

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“Like Andrew Nabbout, Robbie Kruse and a lot of the players I have coached, [Fitzgerald is] very good on the ball, good technically, has speed…it’s just getting into goalscoring positions and giving them the belief they can score goals.

“[He] has 170 games under his belt and I think he can be a good goalscorer for us.”

Andrew Nabbout
Andrew Nabbout scored 18 goals in just 46 games for Newcastle Jets

And you can be sure scoring goals will be one of the key focuses for Merrick in the lead-up to the new season.

The Jets’ lack of goals was a major reason for them missing the finals in 2018/19, scoring just 40 goals from 27 games despite leading the competition in chances created.

It’s why Merrick is intent on nurturing Fitzgerald into a key attacking role, alongside fellow new recruit – Panamanian international Abdiel Arroyo.

“He [Arroyo] had the profile we were looking for: big, strong, very quick and is an in-behind type of player who gets on the end of things,” Merrick said of the 25-year-old who was part of Panama’s squad at the recent 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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“Someone who has played that many games as an international must have a lot more skill than perhaps we have seen.

“With [Jason] Hoffman coming back and [Joey] Champness coming back in a month or so after his rapping [in the USA], we have a pretty powerful forward line.”

The Jets have a month to prepare for their first competitive match of the new season, the FFA Cup 2019 Round of 32 clash against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Wednesday, August 7.