Keaghan Ja­cobs

Kick Off - - Inside -

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.”


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