NEWCASTLE United are set to clinch the signing of promising Coventry City youngster Gael Bigirimana in the next few days – and set him the challenge of breaking into the first team next season.
The 18-year-old midfielder who was born in Burundi and moved to the UK as a refugee, was at Newcastle’s training ground yesterday after being given permission to speak to the Magpies.
The deal is at an advanced stage and United hope to wrap it up in time for Bigirimana to travel to United’s German training camp next week. He played 26 times for Coventry last season but has been signed to play in United’s development squad.
The Journal understands that Coventry value the player at around £500,000 – although the fee could rise to £1million based on appearances. Coventry are also sure to seek a sell-on clause for a player of considerable promise.
Signing for United would be the latest chapter in a fairytale professional career for Bigirimana. Moving to the UK from the war-torn African state of Burundi as a child, he spotted Coventry City’s Academy centre when he was sent out to buy milk at the age of 11. He asked for a trial and, impressed by his attitude, the Sky Blues took him up on his offer and signed him up for their youth team.
He said: “They asked if I had all the equipment, boots, shin pads and stuff like that. I said ‘yes’ but I did not. They said they saw me running fast but to tell you the truth I was jogging.
“The next day they gave me a trial. It was near the end of the season but they took me on for the following campaign. It must have been a miracle.”
His attitude is positive enough for Bigirimana to be named the Football League apprentice of the year in 2011 – and he impressed Coventry’s manager Andy Thorn with both his ability and application in his first season in the first team.
Although primarily deployed in a deep-lying midfield role, he has a good passing range and is expected to develop into a creative playmaker as his career moves on.
Bigirimana is the first of several recruits for the development squad this summer, with United still trying to hammer out a deal to bring Australian defender Curtis Good to the club.
There was further good news for United yesterday as promising James Tavernier signed a three-year deal to continue his career at St James’ Park.
The hotly-tipped 20-year-old, who impressed on loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons last year, is aiming to get first team opportunities on Tyneside next term.
“It’s a massive year and it’s just about getting really at it from the start – from now – because my main aim is to really push on and get in this team next year,” he told the club’s official website.
“There’s obviously going to be more chances for all the young lads that are coming through so it is obviously a big step where we maybe can play in those games and make an impact.”
Demba Ba has been linked, once again, with Liverpool and Manchester United but moved to dampen the speculation on his Twitter page.
Before returning to training he posted a message that read: “So much stuff about me lately. Rumours are rumours! Just forget about it.”
However it remains likely that Danny Simpson will leave before the start of the season, with Reading boss Brian McDermott admitting he is a fan of the Newcastle right-back.
Danny Guthrie, who has recently signed for Reading, mischievously posted a message on his Twitter account calling for the Royals to sign the Newcastle defender.