The history-making South African reveals the barely believable fairy tale story of his journey from the dark depths of the fourth-tier to Scotland’s top-flight.
“It’s going to sound sad, but I still watch that video all the time!” Keaghan Jacobs (above left) laughs as he confesses his frequent habit. But who could blame him: the video the Scotland-based midfielder is referring to is footage of one of the most important goals in his career. In just the first minute of the second half, Jacobs popped up to stroke the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the box in Livingston FC’s all-important Scottish Premier League Play-Off second leg tie against Partick Thistle, a strike which secured the club’s promotion to the top-flight this season for the first time since 2006.
“There are no words to describe it,” he continues, still beaming. “It was one of the best moments in my career. I knew at the time that it could potentially be the goal that gets us promoted and thankfully it was.” The backstory of how the South African ended up scoring one of the most important goals in Livingston’s history while 12 000km away from home rivals some of the bestknown fairy tales ever told. Born to a Zimbabwean mother and South African father two years before his triplet brothers, Jacobs spent the first nine years of his life in Johannesburg before his family relocated to Scotland after his father found work in the northern-most country of the United Kingdom. As a sports-loving boy, young Keaghan excelled in both football and cricket, where he in fact played in Scotland’s national Under-13 and Under-15 side as an all-rounder, yet his unmatched love for football eventually got the better of him. “It got to a point where I had to make a decision to go with either football or cricket, and football was always my favourite between the two of them – I’ve always had a big passion for football,” he says. Having turned out for a local youth amateur team, a 13-year-old Jacobs was then spotted and invited for trials at Livingston, his natural talent helping him make the grade as he joined the then top-flight club’s junior ranks and steadily worked his way up the age groups. The then-buzzing 18-year-old got his lucky break in November 2007 as he was handed his first team debut in a Scottish Cup clash against Alloa Athletic, marking the special occasion with the first professional goal of his career. “I remember it very well,” Jacobs says as he reminisces over his unforgettable debut. “It was a 4-0 win in the end. I felt a bit of everything that day: excited to get my first game, but I felt like a little boy compared to a lot of the players, so I was a bit nervous.
But the older players made me feel calm, and once I was on the pitch I was fine.”
Rise and fall
Jacobs would make his first league appearance for Livingston just a week later in the Scottish First Division, making seven appearances in total that season and adding 17 more caps to his name the next year as he began to establish himself in the team. Yet at the start of the 2009/10 season, disaster struck: Livingston went into administration, and after breaching the governing body’s insolvency rules, the Scottish Football League demoted the club to the fourth-tier of Scottish football. The uncertainty, accompanied by the huge drop in divisions, could have easily tempted the budding South African away from the club, yet Jacobs remained faithful, and in hindsight says that difficult period worked in his favour. “It was horrible to see the club go through that, but from a personal perspective, it worked out well for me as we went down the leagues which gave me a better chance to get more game-time and a regular starting place in the team, which helped me quite a lot,” he acknowledges. “I was also quite young still, so I thought it would be better to stay and get more games than to go to a different team, and maybe only get a game here and there.” The tenacious midfielder’s loyalty paid off, as he featured in more than 25 games a season over the next three years, helping Livingston win back-to-back promotions to return to the second-tier. Yet once again, just as things looked to be on the up, Jacobs faced another setback as he tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament on Christmas Eve of 2012, which ruled him out of the rest of the campaign in what the midfielder describes as one of the toughest challenges of his career. “I only returned nine months later in September,” he recalls. “It was a difficult time, and a difficult period for myself, but I had so many people around me and helping me, and the boys in the change room helped me quite a lot.”
"IT WAS A DIFFICULT TIME, AND A DIFFICULT PERIOD FOR MYSELF."