Kevin van Veen: From PSV heartbreak and part-time plastering to Motherwell's fan favourite

By Nick McPheatBBC Scotland
Kevin van Veen
Kevin van Veen has quickly endeared himself to the Motherwell fanbase after his summer move

Cast your eye across Scottish football's unofficial cult hero checklist and Motherwell striker Kevin van Veen - or 'Budget Bergkamp' - is rapidly ticking his way down the sheet.

Eccentric playing style? Check. Fan favourite? Check. Standout nickname? Check.

Factor in the Dutchman's life as a part-time plasterer, plus a failed £4m move to the Chinese Super League, and we are starting to run out of unmarked boxes.

Here, the 30-year-old tells BBC Scotland about a career that has gone from a heart-breaking release at boyhood club PSV Eindhoven to a whirlwind start at Fir Park.

PSV heartbreak & part-time plastering

Van Veen's footballing life started at Eredivisie club PSV, where not only was the former Scunthorpe United man playing at his dream club but also under the guidance of his idol Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, who has well over 400 career goals to his name, proved to be quite the mentor to the youth side's forwards.

"I really looked up to Ruud," Van Veen says. "He was so down to earth and it was a privilege to work with him. I learned so much. We all did because we scored so many goals when he worked with us.

"The best bit of advice he gave me was to always be on the move. He would also always tell us that the ball doesn't need to go in the top bin all the time, just put it in the net."

Things were looking promising for Van Veen, who was starting ahead of the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum at Netherlands under-15 level.

But a lack of height at the time resulted in PSV releasing him in his late teens - a moment so crushing he decided to throw the towel in on making it as a professional player, swapping his boots for tools.

"My entire youth life was spent at PSV," he recalls. "So, when they eventually told me to leave, my dream was broken in two. I decided to just play amateur with friends.

"My dad told me I needed a job, so I started plastering. I would train twice a week at night and work full-time - starting from 06:00 and sometimes finishing at 19:00."

Van Veen flourished at amateur level as scouts constantly watched on from the sidelines in the hope they could lure the Dutchman back to the professional game.

Under normal circumstances, that would be a straightforward task, but previous heartbreak at PSV and a passion for plastering made it a challenging decision.

"I didn't want to go professional," he says. "I had so many enquiries, but I said no because I just wanted to play for fun and do a normal job. Even when I eventually turned professional, I couldn't let plastering go.

"But every year I was making a step up, scoring 20 goals a season, and before I knew it I could sign for clubs in England, Azerbaijan and the Bundesliga. I held out so long in my decision and ended up signing for Scunthorpe."

Kevin van Veen
Kevin van Veen joined Scunthorpe in 2015 but ended his stay in England this summer

'£4m... for me?'

After a successful spell in the Dutch lower leagues, in 2015 Van Veen made the move to Scunthorpe, where he played under current Fir Park manager Graham Alexander.

It was at Glanford Park he picked up the 'Budget Bergkamp' nickname for his eye-catching displays.

A strong first half to the 2016-17 campaign caught the attention of a Dutch director at a Chinese Super League club. A mooted fee of £4m was knocked back, with Scunthorpe reportedlyexternal-link holding out for twice as much as they pushed for promotion to the Championship.

"I wanted to punch the wall," Van Veen says. "£4m... for me? I would drive myself anywhere for that! It was unbelievable money. Scunthorpe thought there was more to get, but I think the Chinese club were offended by that.

"I wouldn't say there is bad blood between the Scunthorpe chairman and myself, but I do think, 'what if?' What if it did work out and they got it over the line?"

'The fans wouldn't let me go!'

Van Veen ended his six-year stay south of the border at the end of last season, moving north to reunite with Alexander - a decision he has "zero regrets" about.

In just three months he has endeared himself to the Fir Park fanbase, who were keen to welcome their new striker off the team bus like a king after last month's 1-1 draw away to Rangers.

"Everyone had left the car park and I was still there for at least another 15 minutes," he laughs. "They wouldn't let me go! I had my song blasting in my ear, but I don't mind any of that. I'll always make time for them.

"It's up to me now to keep giving them something to be excited about and get them off their seats. We've had a good start.

"But, as a team, we need to keep pushing as hard as we can. If we do that, I really fancy us to have a very good season."

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport

Elsewhere on the BBC