I’M STRONGER NOW AND I’M LOVING LIFE AT COV – GAEL
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.”
IN CONTROL: Barnet defender Bondz N’Gala holds of Rovers’ Ellis Harrison. Inset: Match-winner Gavin Hoyte STAR MAN LUKE GAMBIN
ALL SMILES: Gael Bigirimana, right, and Jacob Murphy