Ray Gooding used to be a Recruitment Director at Coventry City, but he was made redundant in 2008, and joined the Newcastle United Academy under the then manager Richard Money, and Richard asked him if there were any good youngsters at Coventry.
Gael Bigirimana turned 19 on Monday
Ray came up with Gael Bigirimana’s name, and the player at the time was just 15, and finally last summer Newcastle signed Gael for about 1M after Coventry were relegated from the Championship.
So it seems we knew about Gael for quite some time before we singed him.
Ray has acted as the Burundi-born youngster’s mentor, and he has been interviewed in the Newcastle Journal today:
“He’s the nicest lad you could possibly meet. Bigi will probably kill me for saying this but he rang me in the summer to tell me he’d passed his driving test.”
“Coventry had a tie-up with Peugeot, so he was asking me for a bit of advice and he let slip that he had only passed on his 15th test! Fifteen times! I said I couldn’t believe it, I was in stitches. I’ve never heard of that.”
“He’s that kind of kid, though. He gets everyone laughing, he’s a real larger-than-life character. He was one of the youngest in the group at Coventry but he wasn’t out of place – and I’m sure it is the same at Newcastle.”
“I came in with Richard Money at Newcastle and he asked me if there was anyone at Coventry we should be looking at. Gaël’s name was the first one I raised.” “We looked into it and were really keen. We could have got him for practically nothing but it was a bit too complicated with the regulations as they were at the time.”
“He came in the end but we could have had him four years before.” “I have been involved in scouting for youth football for many years. I was involved in spotting Daniel Sturridge and have always said he’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
“But I’ll tell you, Gaël runs him a very, very close second. This boy has everything in his armoury to go to the very top – England and everything.” “He is still only 19 and I think he’s got some growing to do as well.”
“You can already see that he’s benefiting from working with Tioté, who is a top, top player. Newcastle have got an absolute gem.”
Bigi turned 19 only last Monday, so he still has a lot of time to come through at Newcastle, but we think this lad will be challenging for a first team starting position before the end of the season, if this lad’s as good as we think he is.
So far Bigirimana has played 9 times for the first team, and he’s likely to start tonight alongside Cheick Tiote, as the attacking central midfielder.
You can also reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org