Former Chesterfield captain Peter Leven on his first Belarusian silverware, Diego Maradona, overthrowing BATE and why young British coaches should go abroad

Leven was captain of the Spireites for a season
Leven was captain of the Spireites for a season

Almost a year after 'taking a risk' and leaving British football's rat race, Peter Leven has picked up his first piece of Belarusian silverware.

The Scot, who made over 250 league appearances for Kilmarnock, Chesterfield, MK Dons and Oxford, is assistant manager at FC Dinamo Brest - the club aiming to knock perennial champions FC BATE Borisov off their perch.

Peter Leven, right, was assistant manager at Kilmarnock

Peter Leven, right, was assistant manager at Kilmarnock

At the start of the month, Leven's men conquered BATE 3-1 in the Super Cup final in what he calls a 'big statement.'

Speaking ahead of the 2019 Belarusian Premier League season, the 35-year-old explained that his unusual April 2018 career move came from a desire to stand out from the crowd of applicants vying for every British coaching job.

"I left Kilmarnock where I was assistant manager, came back down south to the family in England and I just wanted to try something different," he said.

"I looked about for what was available job-wise in the UK and there was nothing really that I fancied, plus speaking to a few people, every job that comes up there must be 50 to 100 applicants going for it.

"I needed to do something different, to stand out from the ex players and ex managers going for these jobs. Why would they choose me instead of these guys with more experience than me?

"I've always been ambitious and quite courageous so I thought I need to go out and learn a different language, a different culture, do something completely different that stands out on my CV when I do come back."

His agent put him in touch with someone who presented an opportunity in Belarus and Dinamo Brest beguiled him with their lofty goals.

"As you do, you Google Belarus, where is it, what the country is like, the club.

"I went over, nice place, friendly, cheap but the ambition of the club was fantastic, the way they were wanting to be number one over BATE.

"BATE Borisov, I think they've won the league 12 times in a row.

"That's the challenge we've got ahead of us.

"We want to get Champions League money, to be the number one team in Belarus."

Almost 12 months on, he 'gets by' with a repertoire of basic football terms and day to day Russian phrases, which he feels has earned him respect.

It hasn't entirely been a year of the unknown, thanks to the appearance of some very familiar faces in and around his club, including one of the game's all-time greats.

Diego Maradona was unveiled as the new chairman of Brest a month after Leven arrived, although he was gone by September.

"Our president wants to get our name out there, get the brand out there," said Leven.

"Maradona coming in gave us that bit more profile for the club.

"He's very good that way.

"He's brought in Gordon Strachan to do a seminar with the coaches and staff, Juande Ramos has been over, Emile Heskey was over last week with the academy kids.

"He's trying to get people over to teach the culture, teach what success is like, how to run a club, how players and coaches cope with pressure.

"Even when we have international breaks we still fly away to Europe to play teams and get our brand out."

Preparations are well underway for the new league season, which kicks off at the end of March.

Brest have spent their pre-season in Dubai and Turkey and will fly to Spain for a further fortnight of training.

Leven admits you can tell little about a side's prospects until they play competitive games, but he's buoyed by the Super Cup win.

"It's been a long pre-season and it's hard to gauge, you play friendlies and you don't know what you're like, fitness levels, but it was a good test on Saturday against BATE," he said.

"It's a big statement.

"I thought we looked fitter and sharper, considering they played Arsenal in both legs in the Europa Cup.

"We've brought in a little bit more experience this year, last year we fell short against the lesser teams, going away to the smaller grounds, we just needed a bit more guile in the final third.

"BATE are number one, there's no denying that. But it's getting that consistency."

Approaching the anniversary of his arrival in Belarus, Leven has no qualms whatsoever in endorsing a move to foreign climes to his fellow, young British coaches.

"Let's be honest, I never made enough money in the game to sit about and wait for this job or that job, I can't wait, I have to work and learn," he said.

"I wanted to go abroad and see what they're doing different.

"I think we need to take a risk, as players and coaches, to go and experience life abroad.

"I'd definitely recommend it."

Leaving the comfort of home for an unfamiliar land is something Leven has experienced before.

In 2007, at the age of 23, the midfielder crossed the border into England for his first move to a club outside his native Scotland.

And he's still grateful to the Spireites for that opportunity.

"I know people will think 'really?' but it was the best time ever.

"It was my first time in England.

"It was a great year I had there, I loved it. I still speak to my friend Jamie Ward.

"I was so close to staying, but the incentive of League One with MK with Paul Ince, it just took me to the next level.

"Fantastic people, great little place and I thank them so much for giving me the chance to come to England."