There are claims this morning that Alan Pardew ended the career of a player he brought into Newcastle, only a year after signing on for five seasons at NUFC.
Agent Lee Marsh says in an exclusive with the Coventry Telegraph, that Gael Bigirimana was told by Alan Pardew that he would never play first team football under him again, despite the player only being 19 at the time.
The midfielder arrived as an 18 year old from Coventry for £1m plus potential bonuses in July 2012 and played an impressive 29 times (including starting the Europa League quarter final match against Benfica at St James Park) for Newcastle in that first season.
Many supporters felt that at last United had signed up a young player with genuine promise, so it came as a major surprise when after turning out in a League Cup win at Morecambe on 28 August 2013, Bigirimana was never seen again in the first team.
Lee Marsh says the then 19 year old asked to be given the odd substitute appearance to try and win back favour but that Alan Pardew ‘was having none of it’.
The player’s agent (Marsh took over last year, so wasn’t Bigirimana’s agent at the time) admits that the midfielder had some disciplinary issues but clearly thinks there should have been a little bit of mitigation and forgiveness due to his young age.
Lee Marsh also suggests that Gael Bigirimana felt a bit of an outcast because he didn’t drink alcohol but that sounds a bit weak because by the time he arrived, you could hardly imagine the dressing room had that kind of old-fashioned drinking culture. The likes of Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and others were practising Muslims, whilst the recruitment process saw players arriving from overseas where a drinking culture wasn’t prevalent either.
At least the player’s agent has answered the mystery as to why Bigirimana played so many times in his first season, only to then disappear.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of what Gael Bigirimana did or didn’t do, my main criticism of Alan Pardew and Newcastle United was that after giving him a five year contract they had a situation where the manager said he would never play him again, yet allowed the situation to drag on for another three years – rather than forcing an end game earlier. The midfielder eventually moving permanently back to Coventry this summer.
So many players were given ridiculously long contracts and then ended up being unproductive members of the squad, meaning players that were desperately needed weren’t brought in because on appearances Newcastle had enough players.
The likes of Obertan, Marveaux, Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson and many others wasting their careers, as Newcastle contiued to struggle due to lack of enough quality players in the squad.
Agent Lee Marsh talking to the Coventry Telegraph:
“He went for a million quid – a lot of money – with add-ons and what I would say is that he was 19 years old and didn’t have the right people around him.
“It seemed that they wanted to move him on quick; the club might have wanted to just take the money because that might have been the best he becomes.
“It was a rush of a deal and he shouldn’t have gone. There were other clubs who were interested – I know Arsenal were looking at him – but the managerial side of things from Alan Pardew was the most alarming thing.
“He’d gone up there, a kid from Burundi having lived in Coventry, which was his club and he respected it, but probably couldn’t turn the move down because of peer pressure from his family – ‘take it, it’s good money’ – and a lot of issues surrounding it. Sometimes kids at that age just can’t turn it down.”
“There were a couple of scenarios where he turned up late for training when some people went to visit him. He took a few days off without asking and got himself a couple of fines that amounted to quite a few thousand quid – an alarming amount.
“Whether it was a case of mature physically and capable of playing the game but immature in terms of how to handle the move, the pressure, the money and living away from Coventry where he was used to things.
“Alan Pardew told him he wasn’t going to play first-team football for him. When a manager tells you that, no matter how much money you’re on, you’re uncomfortable.
“Gael asked to give him ten minutes here and there as a sub, let him play his way into it but Pardew wouldn’t have it.
“It’s not fair for me to sit here and have a go at Pardew but when you have paid close on a million quid for a player that’s 19 years old – it’s like if it was your own son, you’d put your arm around him.
“He’d come from Coventry with an African background. He’s a caring kid, not a boozer, who likes the church – not everyone’s cup of tea in football where a lot of footballers still like the odd drink. Sometimes players don’t fit in to certain squads but it’s up to the management team to make them feel more welcome but I think he felt like a bit of an outcast.
“So he got some of his friends up from Coventry and had a day off here and there without asking and got himself some ridiculous fines.
“He should never have gone but when a manager has made his mind up he doesn’t like you, you’re out of the door.”