I’M STRONGER NOW AND I’M LOV­ING LIFE AT COV – GAEL

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Paddy von Behr

GAEL Bi­gi­r­i­mana is close to call­ing time on a failed ad­ven­ture with New­cas­tle but the on-loan Coven­try City mid­fielder is adamant his time in the North-East has not been a waste.

Four sea­sons ago, Bi­gi­r­i­mana was one of the hottest prospects in English foot­ball, claim­ing the Cham­pi­onship Ap­pren­tice of the Year award with boy­hood club Coven­try and se­cur­ing a sum­mer move to St James’ Park.

Fol­low­ing a promis­ing first year with New­cas­tle in 2013, the 22-year-old would go on to make just one more se­nior ap­pear­ance for the club and – af­ter an un­suc­cess­ful loan spell with Rangers – he re­turned to a fa­mil­iar part of the world.

Ini­tially join­ing Coven­try in Novem­ber, Bi­gi­r­i­mana saw his loan ex­tended un­til Jan­uary 24 last week as Sky Blues boss Tony Mow­bray seeks to make the deal per­ma­nent – and the Bu­rundi-born mid­fielder ad­mits there is no place like home.

“I went to New­cas­tle and my first sea­son was great,” he said.“The fol­low­ing two sea­sons didn’t go as well as ev­ery­body wished it could, but some­times you come out the other side even stronger than you were be­fore.

“I went there as a boy and came back as a man.You need th­ese things to show you what you are made of.

“So many play­ers are more tal­ented than me so when you have th­ese ob­sta­cles and set­backs, the op­tion be­comes to give up or fight back.That is why so many play­ers don’t reach their po­ten­tial. Know­ing that God has given me this gift and this tal­ent, it is a priv­i­lege and I am grate­ful.

“I have come back to the place where my con­fi­dence and that fire can come back and push me to where I want to go. My home club at the mo­ment is New­cas­tle but this is my first home. Be­ing back with my friends and where I grew up, it has a spe­cial place in my heart.

“The man­ager and play­ers have been amaz­ing.The place is full of great sup­port. All the play­ers get on, there is re­spect among each other and ev­ery­one re­ally wants the club to do well.”

Bi­gi­r­i­mana is not the only man on loan at the Ri­coh Arena. Ja­cob Mur­phy has thrived in Coven­try since join­ing from Premier League Nor­wich, while the pro­lific Adam Arm­strong – also owned by New­cas­tle – took his league tally to 16 goals with a hat-trick at Crewe last week­end.

“Once I knew Adam was go­ing to Coven­try, not just me but most of the boys said to him ‘you bet­ter come back from that club with 20 goals this sea­son’,” he said.

“No-one is say­ing this league is easy, but we know he has got it in him to score goals. See­ing him do great, es­pe­cially for the club that I love, is a great feel­ing.

“Ja­cob is also on fire. He is a great guy, a great char­ac­ter, very hum­ble and it is great to see young boys get­ting a chance.”

Whether that duo end up at Coven­try on a per­ma­nent ba­sis re­mains to be seen and their ster­ling form would sug­gest nei­ther Nor­wich nor New­cas­tle would be ea­ger to see them leave.

How­ever, with the Sky Blues sit­ting com­fort­ably in­side the League One play­off spots, Bi­gi­r­i­mana be­lieves pro­mo­tion would se­ri­ously en­hance Coven­try’s case of bring­ing them back for more next sea­son.

“If we get pro­moted, it is an­other level for Adam and Ja­cob or who­ever is on loan,” he added.“They might go back to their clubs but if they are not get­ting games, then I am sure Coven­try will be their first op­tion to carry on where they started.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

IN CON­TROL: Bar­net de­fender Bondz N’Gala holds of Rovers’ El­lis Har­ri­son. In­set: Match-win­ner Gavin Hoyte STAR MAN LUKE GAM­BIN

Bar­net

ALL SMILES: Gael Bi­gi­r­i­mana, right, and Ja­cob Mur­phy

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