By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Twelve months ago Gael Bigirimana had just signed his first professional deal - fast forward a year and he is a midfielder with European experience under his belt.
It has been a whirlwind spell for the 18-year-old who arrived from Coventry City in the summer, and that culminated in his Magpies debut on Thursday night against Atromitos in a Europa League qualifier.
And Bigirimana didn't look out of place alongside more experienced teammates helping United to a 1-1 first leg draw at the Peristeri Stadium.
"It feels really good," he told nufc.co.uk after the final whistle.
"The performance of the boys was good, it was a great game, a great debut and it is a joy.
"It was difficult conditions, with the heat and the pitch, but we are going to have to get used to these sort of places in Europe. It's a great experience for us to play on different pitches and in different conditions.
"I never could have dreamt that this would be happening so quickly for me. As I always say, I just thank God for blessing me with all these opportunities and I'm just so grateful to be a part of this adventure.
"We now go back to our stadium and the game is in our hands. We need to get a good result and we are full of confidence that we can do that.
"They are a good side but I thought we just looked a bit sharper all over the pitch tonight and hopefully we can make that count in the second leg."
Bigirimana was deployed alongside fellow new recruit Vurnon Anita in the heart of Newcastle's team, and the teenager is delighted to be learning from the former Ajax star, as well as the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote.
"I made a couple of mistakes in the game but I'm still learning, I'm learning every day," he said.
"Having someone like Vurnon alongside me was great. Everyone can see his class and I know I can learn a lot from players like him.
"He's a top, top player and I will get better by training with these guys and playing alongside them. Hopefully I can continue to improve."