GAEL Bigirimana’s ready for the hard yards ahead of him in Newcastle United’s marathon season.
The midfielder made his Premier League debut in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa earlier this month.
And the teenager’s hoping to be involved in Monday night’s televised Premier League clash against Everton at Goodison Park.
The 18-year-old, signed from Coventry City in the summer, impressed after coming off the bench against Villa, and he’s relishing the challenge ahead of him and the team this season.
“I’m just grateful to be in this position – I’m just blessed with good people around me,” Bigirimana said
“I know things are going well, but there will be hard times, and I love going through hard times. That’s a test of character.”
Bigirimana, a fierce competitor with an eye for a pass, slotted in alongside Yohan Cabaye against Villa after fellow midfielder Vurnon Anita was moved to right-back in the wake of Danny Simpson’s injury.
United manager Alan Pardew hopes to have Cheik Tiote, Cabaye’s normal midfield partner, back fit for the Everton game.
But Bigirimana’s sure-footed and selfless performance on his league bow will have heartened Pardew, whose fringe players will have an important role to play in the club’s Europa League campaign this season.
They will also be needed in the Premier League and domestic cups.
For his part, Bigirimana was just happy to have contributed as Newcastle fought back and claimed a point from Villa – and gave the club’s fans something to cheer about on a day when Pardew’s side weren’t at their best.
“That’s my game – I love playing for the team,” added Bigirimana. “I love making the fans happy, and leaving them with something to cheer about.
“They pay their money to watch us, so I always want to make sure I give 100 per cent if I come on. It’s good for the fans who pay to support the club. They’re great fans.”
Burundi-born Bigirimana, eligible to play for four countries, including England, wasn’t on international duty this fortnight, and was instead taking stock of his early progress at United.
“I’ll look where I’ve come from pre-season to here (in the international break),” he said.
“I’ll watch DVDs of my games and see what I need to do. I like learning from people – when you keep learning, everything will be good.”