Peter van der Veen interview: New Hull City assistant on his intense coaching education
A fascinating character, the Dutchman may be working in football’s relatively cosseted ‘bubble’ but is safe in the knowledge that he has experienced real life outside it and is wholly grateful for what he has got.
He will cast his mind back to the days when he combined running a landscape gardening business in his native Holland with his early steps on the coaching ladder with Sparta Rotterdam’s youth teams after hanging up his boots as a player.
The hours were long and often back-burning and certainly all-consuming. But he wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
Van der Veen, 49, brought in to assist Shota Arveladze at City in February, told The Yorkshire Post: “At 6.30am, your alarm goes off and then you get in your car and until 2.30pm, I worked.
“Then, I drove to the club – sometimes with a lot of trees in the back of my car. The kids always smiled and were laughing.
“I loved the job as well. On Sunday, my day off, sometimes I’d have to go back to some gardens to finish because Monday was a new job waiting for us.
“It was tough, but I loved both jobs. I worked 40 hours in football and a bit more in the garden. It was crazy hours, but I loved life.”
The multi-faceted job of a good assistant is to be a sounding board for a manager/head coach, provide a shoulder to cry on for players where necessary and to display calm and perspective.
Given his back story, van der Veen has experience to call upon in that regard.
A brief sabbatical in his coaching career at Sparta saw him head to Australasia and the Far East with a thirst for knowledge and desire to broaden his horizons with just a rucksack for company.
He returned to Holland to build a successful coaching career and went onto enjoy a four-year association with Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam before working with the Netherlands national team from Under-15s to Under-20 level.
The pinnacle arrived when he led the Under-17s to European Championship glory in Ireland in 2019 and fourth place in the World Cup later that year in Brazil.
Many players flourished under his watch, with his role being to develop young footballers and also individual minds.
On the importance of his break away from football before returning to it, van der Veen said: “It helps when you have other chats with players as well, not only about football, but other stuff. They like to travel as well and it is nice to share those experiences where I can.
“It was a sabbatical and I switched off and enjoyed nature a lot. I went to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Bali and it was relaxed and beautiful.”
A well-read individual he may be, but Van der Veen – despite being someone who has followed English football for many years – admits he did not know too much about Hull before he arrived in late winter.
He has previously come across former Tigers striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and knew a bit about ex-defender Jordy de Wijs, from the time when he played for PSV Eindhoven against his Sparta youth teams.
Ex-City midfielder George Boateng was also a old team-mate in their playing days at another Rotterdam outfit in Excelsior.
His main source of knowledge regarding English football is someone who plies his trade in League One in the shape of Liam Manning, who is earning plenty of kudos for his work at MK Dons, pushing for promotion from the third tier and regarded as the best footballing team in the division.
Van der Veen was Manning’s assistant in his time at Belgian second-tier side Lommel SK. After Manning headed to MK last August, his number two had a brief spell in charge before leaving last December.
Van der Veen added: “I am seeing Liam in the international break for dinner in London, which will be nice. I always text him after the games and say: ‘you are getting close (to promotion)’. Hopefully, he gets there.
“We share the same vision and tried to implement it in Belgium. In the first year, we struggled a bit, but at the end (20-21 season), we finally got to third, but lost three points for having Covid cases. If we’d got those points, maybe we’d have played in the play-offs. But we did well there.”
In terms of wider coaching inspirations, Van der Veen is not short on that count either.
He is a Dutchman after all.
He continued: “(Rinus) Michels and (Johan) Cruyff influence everyone in Holland, of course, but I also read a lot about other international coaches.
“I have read a lot of books about (Sir Alex) Ferguson and (Jose) Mourinho from his time at Chelsea. I also read a lot of books from basketball coaches such as Phil Jackson.”
Life should definitely be interesting and thought-provoking for Hull players in their daily work with Van der Veen at Cottingham.