THE BIG INTERVIEW: Jean-Yves Koue Niate

Jean-Yves Koue Niate was born in Paris, France and he has played for Stade Reams B, Cannes B and AS Poissy before a spell in Belgium with KV Turnhout and FCJL Arlon saw him take his chances in England in 2016.

Solihull Moors were the first English club to take him on before moving to Oxford City, Ebbsfleet United, Guiseley and former club Torquay United. He spent two years at Torquay and he won the National League South title with Torquay last season.

Koue Niate discusses his time in his home country, early memories of football, the transition from France to England, his time at Aldershot Town so far and some interesting hobbies too.

From the beginning, where did football start for you?

“From the age of seven, I started to play around my area. I kept on playing and enjoying football with my friends.

“Around 14 years old, I was in an academy in France and at 16 I left my Mum’s house to sign with an academy just outside of Paris. The academy was Stade Reams and I was there for three years and then I went to Cannes when I was 19.

“I was there for nearly two years. After that, I changed the country and played in the Belgium second division. I then came back to France and played one year in the third division.

“I came to England four years ago and now I’m at Aldershot Town.”

How different was life in Belgium compared to life in France?

“It was a different language to what I’m used to. In North Belgium, they speak Flemish which is a bit of a mixture of Dutch and German. I was with a manager that used to work with some big international stars such as Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor.

“The football was a little different but we did well.”

When you came to England, how long did it take to learn the language? Was it difficult?

“I think it took me a year as there are different accents like the Birmingham one so it was difficult to understand.

“My teammates were helping me but it was my first good experience in England.”

You started your English career with Solihull Moors and played with Oxford City, Guiseley, Ebbsfleet and Torquay United. Talk to me about the journey going through all of those teams?

“It was my first year in England so the football was very different from what I am used to. When I signed for Solihull, I had to wait for my international clearance and it took a while to come. I was waiting for this paper so I had to miss the first couple of games.

“When I got the papers, I started to play so I was learning how they played as well and what type of oppositions they would come up against.

“It was really good and I was learning a lot. I was enjoying it. It is hard when you move to a different country but if you work hard to get used to it then you will be fine.”

Was the physicality much different from the Belgium and French leagues because the English leagues are known to be rough?

“In Belgium, it is quite physical but they do try to play football. In England, it is more direct so it is a battle most of the time.

“It was hard to adapt in my first year with the different style of football because, in France, we try to play from the back and build up the attack. In England, we just play the ball up top from the back and defend a lot more too.”

At Torquay United, you spent two seasons there helping them win the National League South title last season. Was that your favourite memory in the National League so far from those clubs?

“Yeah, I would say so. I had a good time at Torquay especially last year when we were promoted. I have a lot of good memories but this year after my injury,  I didn’t play that much for them as I did in the promotion season.

“That’s when I decided to leave the club and get more game time. It’s just part of football sometimes and I had to get on with it.”

Being offered more football is crucial to you as a defender. When Aldershot Town gave you an offer, was it a no-brainer to say yes or was there more thinking about your decision?

“It was easy because I wanted to go somewhere where the manager really wanted me. He (Danny Searle) called me in one day and I decided to come and join the club.

“Aldershot Town are a very good club and they have a nice story. That was the main reason why I wanted to join them and I just came and aimed to do my best every game for the club.”

Everyone was excited when you joined Aldershot Town. How did you settle in at the club? What were the key things you did to fit in quickly?

“When I came, the manager wanted me to be a leader at the back because we have a young team so I tried to lead by example and show my experience.

“I try to show a few of them how to head the ball clear properly, talk to them when on the pitch and try to get any problems resolved quickly when they arise.”

Outside of Aldershot Town, are there any hobbies or interests that fans wouldn’t know you get up to?

“Nothing special really. I like to go to the gym a lot and do my work.

“I also like to relax when there is no football going on too.”

From your time as a defender, who would you say has been the hardest opponent in the National League to play against?

“If I could say one name I would have to go for Gime Toure who plays for Hartlepool United.

“He was tricky to deal with and I had to work really hard to restrict him to the best of my ability.”