ALAN Pardew’s confident Newcastle United – and the club’s young players – will only get stronger in the Europa League.
Pardew’s side were held to a goalless draw by Maritimo in Madeira last night.
A number of key players were left behind on Tyneside, and Pardew named a youthful team lacking in European experience at the Estadio dos Barreiros.
As it was, Newcastle overcame a slow start to create the game’s better chances, with United hitting the woodwork three times.
“With the injuries we had before this game, I’m hoping that will be the weakest we will be this season. I hope so,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“We have had three or four injuries that have been costly to us. Having said that, the performance of the team was outstanding, I thought.”
At 18, Gael Bigirimana was the youngest United player, and Pardew singled out the fiercely-competitive midfielder – who was protecting the back four with Dan Gosling – for praise after the match, played out in a hot and humid Funchal.
The experience in Madeira, Pardew believes, will prove invaluable to Bigirimana and his team-mates as they adapt to European football.
Pardew added: “He’s calm, isn’t he? There were times when the game got too open, really, for us.
“We were trying to win it and leaving ourselves a bit open, and it was him nine times out of 10 who was shutting the door and then being calm and composed.
“This is a boy who is 18 years old. He has got a great future.
“You could criticise my selection in terms of experienced players here, but these guys, it’s massive for them.
“As we go along and we got more options for me in terms of fitness. Bigi is going to play himself into being right in with a sniff even when everybody is back, like he did tonight.
“I don’t know what Dan Gosling’s meterage was, but I would suggest it was over 13km, because he was just everywhere.
“He and Bigi were terrific in there, Sammy (Ameobi) came on and looked like he was going to open the door, so we had some real bonuses in terms of those young players.
“I know Dan is not classed as a young player here, but he is still a young player, and so is Gabby Obertan, and I thought he played well, he threatened that right side.
“I am very, very pleased with the experience – have young Adam (Campbell) here experiencing all the dynamics of this game is invaluable to us. It a great experience.”
The Gazette’s Europa League coverage is in association with UTS Engineering Ltd. http://www.uts-ltd.com/