By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
"Weeping might endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That verse from Psalm 30:5 of the Bible is helping Gael Bigirimana to stay postive after two demoralising defeats in the last four days.
God has guided the 19-year-old throughout his life and career so far. It is Him who Bigirimana believes urged him to ask for a trial at Coventry City's Academy while he was buying a pint of milk as a youngster and it is to Him that he prays before every game he plays.
And it is Him who the Burundi-born midfielder will again turn to to ensure that he and his team-mates come back stronger in the weeks ahead after their 7-3 reverse at Arsenal, which came three days after the Boxing Day meeting at Manchester United when Newcastle led on three occasions before eventually going down 4-3 to the league leaders.
At the Emirates Stadium, the Magpies trailed on three occasions but equalised each time - only to slip to a 7-3 thrashing, with four of the goals coming in the final 20 minutes. Both defeats were hard to take given how much the players put into each match, but Bigirimana is one young man who will always keep the faith.
"Sometimes life will hit you down, hit you down, hit you down but God is just looking at you to see if you're going to give up like the verse in the Bible," he told nufc.co.uk after emerging from the away dressing room. "Football can be a cruel sport. You work hard and you do most things right - but you've got to do it 100 per cent right for the full 90 minutes.
"You can't just do 85 or 80 minutes. You've got to keep going and keep going until you can't feel your legs.
"We've given our all at Man United and Arsenal, two big teams in the league and in the country but sometimes when you think you're doing the right thing and you're playing well, football takes you and you've got to have the character where you keep going.
"Football will punch you down and punch you down and punch you down. But you can't give up, because as a footballer you've got to have a strong character and when football doesn't go your way and it's hitting you down, you've got to stand up, not give up and just keep fighting back.
"Eventually it will start falling your way. It's incredible sometimes - you just think 'what's going on?' but that's football. This game could be the last punch, or Everton could be the last punch, but one of these games will be the last punch. Then we'll get our time to start punching back."
The Magpies certainly looked a little punch drunk towards the end of Saturday's game but Arsenal's Boxing Day fixture against West Ham was postponed due to the effect of a tube train workers' strike on the London transport system, and Bigirimana felt the Gunners' extra rest proved decisive in the final few minutes as the hosts ran riot against a tired Magpies defence.
"It's no excuse but we've had two games in four days - and massive games away from home," said the youngster, who had been replaced by Shola Ameobi with his side trailing 4-3 in the 82nd minute as Alan Pardew understandably threw caution to the wind.
"In the last 15 minutes we looked all over the place but we're human beings, we get tired. I can't say that's an excuse but we just have to learn from our mistakes and make sure we don't concede against Everton.
"We always knew that we could score, even against Man U and Arsenal here. There was great character to some of our play but you've got to learn from these big teams. You've got to look and say 'what do they do best? What do they do to get even better still?' and we've got to add that to our game."
Last season, Bigirimana was playing for Coventry as the Sky Blues were relegated to League One but a sign of how far his star has risen came when he started against both the Gunners and the Red Devils at two of the best stadiums in England. And despite the scorelines in the two games, he has looked completely at home in such surroundings.
"I think I've done alright in both games but it's not about me, it's about the team," he insisted. "Even if I play excellent and we lose, I can't say 'I did well.' You lose as a team, you win as a team and you play well as a team.
"I just give thanks to my God. I'm thankful to him because I don't deserve it. People might say 'yes you do' but you can't say I deserve everything I get because there are people who live in the street who are better people than probably I am, but they're on the street. So you cannot say 'I deserve this' because the people in the street deserve better.
"But playing at Old Trafford and Arsenal and these experiences - I'm just living the dream. God always tests me, and he tests me to see how I react. But I always give him thanks - win, lose or draw, I give him thanks because I know there's always something good coming up."
Weeping might endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
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