Gael Bigirimana

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Gael Bigirimana had praised heaped upon him by Alan Pardew following his performance in the Europa League draw at Maritimo - but the modest midfielder was quick to thank his manager.

Making only his third start in European football and just his fifth appearance for Newcastle, the 18-year-old was hailed as "terrific" by the man who signed him after putting in an engine room display which belied his years.

And in turn, the Burundi-born youngster said Pardew was not only his boss, but also a "father figure" who has helped him to settle in a new city and improve his game following his summer move from Coventry.

"If he did say that, I give him thanks," Bigirimana told nufc.co.uk in an exclusive interview after the 0-0 draw against the Portuguese outfit who remain unbeaten in all competitions this season.

"He's been great to me; he's always giving me advice and given me opportunities. He's just like a father figure to me at the moment on the football side, and I'm really grateful for that."

After a slow start, Newcastle went on to dominate the second half at the Estadio do Barreiros and hit the woodwork on three occasions.

But they were also grateful to Rob Elliot for some good saves at the other end and Bigirimana said: "Credit to the opposition - they were good and they gave us a good game.

"Everybody put in a good shift and it's a great result. The pitch was not the best but when you come to places like this you've just got to make sure that you don't end up with a result where you're thinking in your mind 'we should have done better.'

"But it's a good start in the group stage. The heat was quite difficult but we kept going, we kept going. We just had to adapt and when we did that, we controlled the game. We had a couple of chances which we could have put away but we've just got to move on and learn from that.

"We got a point and every point in the group stage is a great point. We've just got to take that and hopefully we'll start getting three points."

Click here to buy tickets for Newcastle's next Europa League fixture, at home to Bordeaux on Thursday, 4th October