ALAN Pardew is backing Gael Bigirimana to put in a Cheik Tiote-style performance against Atromitos – after learning from his fellow midfielder in training.
The teenager will make his competitive debut for the club at the Peristeri Stadium tonight in the first leg of Newcastle United’s Europa League qualifier.
Tough-tackling Tiote was left behind on Tyneside for treatment on an injury ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit to Chelsea.
And Bigirimana, signed from Coventry City in the summer, will be asked to fill his boots.
The 18-year-old has given as good as he’s got against Tiote in pre-season training, and Pardew is confident he is ready for the challenge of European football.
“Gael has got 30 or so Championship games under his belt,” Pardew said.
“Gael is striving to get to the level of Cheik. He’s 18 years-old. He has got a great person to learn from in Cheik.
“He has seen what he is like in training, and he has taken that into his training, which is good. That will replicate into games.
“I expect him to cope with this, otherwise we wouldn’t have signed him.”
“That is the same with a number of our players.”
Winger Gabriel Obertan will also be handed a start against Atromitos, who finished fourth in the Greek Super League last season.
And Pardew is confident his faith in the club’s younger players will be rewarded in the Athens heat.
“Obertan is going to play,” added Pardew. “These are players who are going to contribute in the first team.
“Sometimes it’s easier when you’ve got nine first-team players around you, but tonight that’s not going to happen. They’ve got to excel tomorrow.”