Bigirimana eager to learn
Newcastle midfielder Gael Bigirimana is hungry to learn as he attempts to establish himself as a Barclays Premier League player.
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The highly-rated 18-year-old got his big chance during the summer when the Magpies swooped to sign him from Coventry, and has since furthered his education with two Europa League starts and a first top-flight appearance as a substitute in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Both he and manager Alan Pardew acknowledge that the teenager still has a lot to learn, but a goal-saving block to deny former Sunderland striker Darren Bent a winner in the midst of an impressive performance quickly endeared him to the club's fans.
Bigirimana said: "I am here to put in a shift for the team and to be creative in the team. I am just learning as a player.
"No matter how old you are, you are always learning, you can never stop learning.
"I am going to look at my game and look at where I can improve more to be always 100% and giving what the fans want to come and see.
"That's what I want to do, I hope to make the fans happy with my performance."
Burundi-born Bigirimana arrived in England as a 10-year-old refugee and got his opportunity at Coventry after turning up at the club's Academy to ask for a trial.
His rise since has been impressive and buoyed by Pardew's willingness to give youth a chance, has set about the task of forcing his way into the manager's plans.
The midfielder was called from the bench 38 minutes into Sunday's game after full-back Danny Simpson succumbed to a hamstring problem, prompting Vurnon Anita's switch to full-back.
Bigirimana was asked to step into the role filled so effectively by the currently injured Cheick Tiote in the last two seasons, and did not let his manager down.
He said: "In pre-season, he [Pardew] said: 'If you do well, if you catch my eye, it doesn't matter how old you are, I will play you. As long as you are going to give me your best and perform and you look like you are going to help me, I don't mind putting you in at any stage'.
"I was not expecting to come on, I was expecting maybe to come on for five, 10 minutes. But God had a little surprise again for me, so I am just so happy."
Pardew was delighted with the youngster's contribution on a day when Tiote's bite was particularly missed.
He said: "It was a tough call, actually. I did think whether to make it because we weren't playing well at that time and we looked a bit disjointed, and I thought it was a tough call for an 18-year-old.
"But we really missed Cheick - I don't think they would have got a draw here if we had Cheick in the team. He would have got amongst a few of them.
"Bigi is that type and he did get in amongst them and he started moving it quicker, and we looked a lot better for it, and fair play to him.
"I think our fans have taken to him already and we certainly have. We love him already in our camp."
Newcastle were trailing to Ciaran Clark's 22nd-minute header when Bigirimana got the nod, but after a spirited second-half fightback, snatched a point courtesy of Hatem Ben Arfa's thunderbolt.
They might even have won it at the death had keeper Brad Guzan not clawed Yohan Cabaye's injury-time free-kick from underneath his crossbar, but that would have been harsh on the visitors.