GAEL Bigirimana’s ready for the next stage of his football education – thanks to his time in the school of hard knocks.
Bigirimana was handed his full Premier League debut in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Reading.
The 18-year-old was picked to partner Cheik Tiote in midfield in the absence of Yohan Cabaye ahead of the experienced Vurnon Anita, who is still adjusting to the pace and intensity of English football.
And United manager Alan Pardew was heartened by Bigirimana’s performance.
Bigirimana was signed from Coventry City in the summer after an impressive breakthrough season in the Championship, and it was the Burundi-born player’s experiences in English football’s frenetic second tier that got him the nod at the Madjeski Stadium.
“I thought this game might suit him more than Anita,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“I knew the intensity of the game – it was going to be like a Championship game. It would have that kind of energy.
“I didn’t want Vurnon to get caught out by that. I knew Bigi, being at Coventry last year, would know what it was all about.
“I thought he played well. He can be very proud of his performance.”
Meanwhile, Anita – who can also play at right-back – could return to the starting XI on Thursday night, when Newcastle take on Bordeaux at St James’s Park in the Europa League.
Another player pushing for a start is Shane Ferguson, who twice came off the bench last week and set up a goal on each occasion.
The 21-year-old delivered the cross for Demba Ba’s second equaliser against Reading.
“He’s pushing, Fergie,” said Pardew. “I kept saying he’d have an impact with that left foot of his, and my goodness he’s made an impact this week.
“Sammy (Ameobi) didn’t get on because we had a couple of injuries, but I’ve said all along those two will be big players for us this year.”