Gael Bigirimana

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Gael Bigirimana helped Newcastle qualify for the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday - less than two months after leaving life in League One behind.

And after playing in both legs as United saw off Atromitos 2-1 on aggregate, the 18-year-old midfielder is looking forward to another "new chapter" in his own personal fairytale.

The Burundi-born midfielder joined Coventry's Academy as an 11-year-old when he asked for a trial despite owning no boots or shin pads, then earned a move to Tyneside this summer. And now, after his first appearance at the Sports Direct Arena ended in a 1-0 win, he can look forward to taking part in continental competition with the Magpies. 

"It's crazy man, it's crazy," he told following his pivotal performance in the engine room. "Everything is just happening nicely.

"Sometimes there will be hard times but I'm ready for the bad times as well because that's when you learn and build your character. But I'm just thankful for the way things are going so far.

"It was a great, great result and it was just important that we got through. It's great for the club to get to the next stage so we're just going to build our confidence up and look forward to each game as they come along."

The scores were level from the first leg in Athens last week, but Haris Vuckic netted in the 21st minute to give United the win on the night and overall - which wasn't a bad way to mark Bigirimana's Gallowgate bow.

He explained: "The game was in dangerous hands because if they'd scored in this tie then it would have became so difficult. But thankfully Haris scored a goal so I really thank God for the win. The lads gave all they have and we deserved to win.

"For me, the atmosphere sounded very good even though the stadium wasn't full. I imagine when it's full it will be crazy but the fans were great and it was a really good day for the club and for the city.

"We just need to keep the momentum of winning games and not losing, and keeping clean sheets in games so we get our foundations for the rest of the season."

While United were busy booking their place in Friday's Europa League draw, they were being drawn out against Manchester United in the third round of the Capital One Cup.

And the prospect of running out at Old Trafford is an exciting one for the teenager, who knows that he could be called upon in domestic cup competitions as well as European fixtures this term.

"I told you things kept getting better," he grinned. "It should be good but I'm just going to enjoy this moment and the next day get back to training.

"This will be gone by tomorrow - but there's a new chapter coming up." 

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