His Dundee United career only lasted two months but Wato Kuate certainly won’t be forgotten.
Courier Sport takes a look at his short but eventful stay at Tannadice, now that manager Ray McKinnon has confirmed it is over.
The arrival. Kuate came to this part of the world with considerable pedigree in youth football. The Cameroon-born, Portugese midfielder was said to have had the likes of AC Milan and Juventus tracking him but he opted for the Manchester City academy. Kuate isn’t the first and won’t be the last to find out that it takes a lot more than raw talent to make the breakthrough at somewhere like the Etihad and he was cut adrift. Spells in Turkish football with Akhisar Belediyespor then Asteras Tripoli in Greece were brief and Kuate arrived for a trial at United at the start of March. There was nothing glamorous about his first appearance in tangerine. It was as a trialist in the development league at Forfar’s Station Park. That display, combined with game-time in Sean Dillon’s testimonial and good work in training, convinced McKinnon to give Kuate a short-term deal through to the end of the season.
The pundit. It would be fair to say that Kuate didn’t make a great impression on former United player and current BBC Radio Scotland analyst, Allan Preston. To Preston’s trained eye Kuate looked like a fan who had won a competition to play for his team, or something along those lines. He certainly appeared awkward and immobile at times but McKinnon was convinced there was a player in there.
The goal. McKinnon’s faith was rewarded with a spectacular 30-yard left-foot goal in the second leg of the play-off quarter-final against Morton. It was a late goal of the season contender and had a celebration to match, with Kuate running the full length of the pitch to take a bow in front of home fans behind the opposite goal. Rough around the edges, a bit bonkers but capable of the magnificent – Kuate ticked all the cult-hero boxes. Arabs were in love.
The ego. Kuate is said to be a nice enough, polite young man but he didn’t want for self-belief. “I heard he told our club TV that when he is match fit he is the best player in that position in the world,” Sean Dillon revealed. “It certainly makes a difference from someone just saying ‘we’ll see how things go’ and all the usual stuff.” That, it does.
The end. Maverick? Undoubtedly. Team player? It would appear not. There were already signs that United and Kuate would be a fast-burning relationship. Even after his wonder goal, McKinnon revealed that it had been preceded by a “chat with him at half-time about bucking his ideas up”. In the second leg of the semi-final at Falkirk he let his man run off him for the Falkirk goal and then at Tannadice last night against Hamilton Accies you could have made a case for subbing him after 15 minutes. Time and time again he coughed up possession in the middle of the park. It was a shock that Kuate reappeared for the second half but he only lasted another 10 minutes before he was eventually brought off. Kuate didn’t go quietly or conventionally, that’s for sure. Dillon, Mark Durnan and the United fans were all engaged in confrontations of sorts and up the tunnel he went without diverting via the dug-out. In the huff would be the charitable description. It wasn’t quite Gavin Gunning’s sit-down protest but McKinnon had seen enough and asked after the game whether that was Kuate’s last appearance in United colours, the answer wasn’t left open to interpretation. “Absolutely.”
The weekend. So United will be Kuate-less for their play-off D-Day at Hamilton. It perhaps best sums up the gulf between the opinion the player has of his own ability and reality, that the team will likely stand a better chance of securing a return to the Premiership they crave without him.