Player to watch next season: Gael Bigirimana at Newcastle
With the headlines surrounding Newcastle United this summer almost exclusively focusing on Joe Kinnear’s command of the English language, there hasn’t been much room for any concerning the state of manager Alan Pardew’s squad.
The likes of Darren Bent and Loic Remy have been linked with moves to the north-east in dispatches, but it is the potential departures of players such as Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse which will be occupying the minds of much of the Geordie faithful.
Those exits could add up to a renewed chance for one of the more promising youngsters in Pardew’s camp though.
Gael Bigirimana joined Newcastle from Coventry City last summer for a fee which could rise to £1million.
Making use of the vast amount of matches that the Magpies had to face en route to the last eight of the Europa League, the 19-year-old featured 25 times for Pardew’s men during the 2012/13 season; scoring once with a terrific strike from the edge of the box in a 3-0 home win over Wigan last December.
Named as the Championship’s Apprentice of the Year when he was at Coventry during the 2011/12 campaign, much has been made of Bigirimana’s back story given that he fled Burundi with his family to move to the UK as a refugee in 2004.
It is his football which is doing all the talking now though.
The midfielder represented England at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer, and he could be returning to Newcastle to find that several of the roadblocks in his way to a first-team start will have disappeared.
Cabaye is interesting big-spending Paris-Saint Germain and Monaco, there are still doubts over Ben Arfa’s future and Cheick Tiote has experienced an alarming dip in form.
In Bigirimana, Newcastle – who are 6/5 to finish in the Premier League’s top 10 and 8/1 to win the division without the big six – might just have a player who could make their absences a little more bearable.
And mercifully keep Kinnear out of those headlines too.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication