Nabbout: There’s no mates when you step over the line

Andrew Nabbout is something of a Melbourne Derby veteran.

Having featured in 14 iterations of the famous fixture and in both shades of blue, the 28-year-old has seen the Derby back when it was contested by Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart. He’s seen the Derby when it was played in front of 50,000+ spectators at its height back in 2015. He’s also, more recently, seen it played behind closed doors where the only spectators are on the sidelines barking instructions that echo around an empty stadium.

Football has been through a lot over the past two years but with the 2021 Christmas Derby pulling the fixture’s biggest attendance since the outbreak of COVID – and City’s biggest home crowd since late 2018 – it looks like the spirit of the rivalry is back on the mend.

Reminiscing on some of those Derbies of old, Nabbout knows more than most just what’s at stake when Melbourne’s two shades of blue go head-to-head.

“Emotions run high, it’s really intense,” Nabbout said, “Bragging rights are on the line.”

And never more so than in this iteration, the fixture’s 37th, where the head-to-head record between the teams will likely be tipped in favour of one of the attending sets of fans’ favour by the time the final whistle blows.

At present, the ledger sits balanced at 13 wins apiece, with 10 draws also contested. A City win, however, would truly mark a shift in the balance of footballing dominance in Melbourne, with this upcoming meeting looming as the first time in over eight years that superiority in the head-to-head record has changed hands.

Needless to say, with a revival in attendances and head-to-head superiority at stake, the rivalry is well and truly alive.  

“It felt like the last Derby we had was edging our way back towards those times,” Nabbout said, referencing the 2021 Christmas Derby and the near sell-out attendances at Marvel Stadium in 2015.

The atmosphere was electric, the game was unreal.

With both of Melbourne’s competing halves also performing well in the league, the stakes are even higher, and that can only serve to benefit the rivalry further.

“I’m actually really happy to be honest,” Carlton-born Nabbout began, “Because the Melbourne teams are taking the league by storm this year.

“It’s pleasing to see that football in Melbourne has pretty much taken over.”

Looking specifically towards the impending meeting between the crosstown rivals, the City winger is unwavering in his view on the value of the support of home fans.

“You can call it a cliché all you like; it is true, they are our 12th man,” Nabbout said.

“I feel like they get us through the last 30-40 minutes of the game where you’re grinding out the tough parts of it.”

That said, it’s not just the home support that he thrives off when it comes to Derby elements in the stands.

“I love when the crowd gets on top of us, but I don’t mind when I get a bit of stick from the other side as well, obviously I’ve copped it all year and I love it,” he said.

“It really pushes me; it makes me push harder.”

Though Melbourne Derbies undoubtedly bring reunions with old friends from his time at Victory, with so much on the line for Nabbout and his City teammates, it seems he’s adopted an attitude that will undoubtedly be shared by the whole team:

“Once I step over that line, there’s no mates. It’s business and I’m there to get three points.”