ONE of the first things you notice about the Jacobs brothers is that they finish each other’s sentences.

Intermittent network signals and garbled mobile phone conversations have been regular features during lockdown, and initial attempts to set up a five-way interview have proved troublesome.

In the end, we settle for a group FaceTime video call, so it’s reassuring there’s a telepathy at work – the result of years of living together, of playing football in the same teams and of that general bonhomie that comes naturally to families that love each other.

It is 10 years tomorrow since the Jacobs boys Keaghan (30), Kyle, Devon and Sheldon (all 28) made history by becoming the first quartet of brothers to play in a senior football match when they featured in Livingston’s Third Division encounter with Albion Rovers.

Asked whether it has crossed their minds that the anniversary is on the horizon, they confess that it hasn’t.

Kyle, now impressing at Morton, does admit that he still has the match programme, while Sheldon jokes that he has it framed above his bed. Keaghan, meanwhile, thinks he might have it “among a bundle in the garage somewhere”.

It might take him some time to dig it out since he celebrated his testimonial year with the west Lothian club in 2019.

The perfunctory details note that Gary Bollan’s side – already champions by that stage – won 2-0 on a mild spring evening following goals within the first 18 minutes, one from David Sinclair and the other an own goal by Michael McGowan. The most noteworthy feat had been achieved when Sheldon came off the bench to replace Bobby Barr with 19 minutes remaining. It was to be his one and only senior appearance.

Bollan had already told the brothers they would all be on the pitch at the same time.

“I just remember that all four of us were buzzing, knowing that we were going to be playing in the same team together,” says Devon. They had, of course, played on the same pitch before but never in a senior game.

It is Keaghan and Sheldon who have the clearest memories of the night when most of the Scottish media was represented in some form.

“My biggest memory was when Sheldon got subbed on. I remember looking over to the touchline every time there was a substitution made to see if it was him coming on. Then, when he did, there was a real moment of pride for myself because we had been in the youth teams together.”

“Everyone knew it was a momentous occasion,” adds Sheldon. “Sky Sports were there, we did interviews at the end with the four of us. It’s something we’ll all remember. I still go to watch Keags play from time to time and the Livi fans still talk about it now.”

The four were given the man-of-the-match award after the final whistle. Keaghan jokes he took the champagne because he was the only one old enough to drink it.

Glasgow Times:

The Jacobs brothers’ story was remarkable from the outset. When Irene Jacobs was pregnant for the second time she wanted nothing more than a little girl. Irene and her husband Dave already had Keaghan who was two. There were three other boys, Kevin, David and Steven, from Dave’s first marriage.

A girl would be the icing on the cake. Instead, she got three boys all at once.

“She was told she was having non-identical triplets,” recalls Kyle laughing. “But she didn’t know the gender so she was hoping for a girl. It was a bit of a shock.”

It wasn’t the only surprise Irene would experience in a household straining with males. One afternoon an impromptu cricket match with their half-brothers in the back garden ended with a cover drive smashing a window. The boys spent the rest of the evening trying to double up by putting the ball back through the broken shards of glass.

In a household with four young boys, the rivalry was often fierce but it acted as a spur as they entered their teenage years.

“There’s competition between us even now and I think that’s a major factor in why we did so well. We wanted each other to do well but at the same time . . .” says Kyle before Sheldon brings a full point to the sentence “. . . we all wanted to do better than each other.”

It’s Kyle’s turn again. “There weren’t any serious fights, we weren’t making each other bleed or that sort of thing. It was pushing and pulling.”

Football was pursued at the Randburg club in Johannesburg, where the boys’ earliest memories of the game were formed.

“We were late for training one day,” says Sheldon. “And my mum said, ‘Make sure to run when you get out of the car. We were just driving into the car park and the car was still going and Keags jumps out and he’s still hanging on to the door, his feet scurrying along as my mum drives the car; she had to lean over and say, ‘You didn’t need to literally run’ . . .”

When Keahgan was nine, and Kyle, Devon and Sheldon were seven, Dave got a job as a sales rep for a company that sold hand dryers. It took the family to Scotland.

The triplets all played for Murieston Boys Club in Livingston and trained at Rangers. When the boys club faced the pro-youth side, the former cuffed the latter. Rangers promptly signed the boys and three or four of their’ team-mates straight after.

So which one of the four was the best player when they were growing up?

“Probably me,” says Kyle, to the sound of laughter from the others. “I don’t think you’re going to get a proper answer to that,” adds Devon.

“I’m the best left-footed player,” says Sheldon, the only left-footed player among the brothers. “I have to say we all played different positions,” continues Devon.

Keaghan, the elder statesman, takes over: “We all had self-belief in our own abilities,” he adds before Kyle brings a succinct answer to a tricky question. “I think we all pushed each other on by believing that each of us was the best.”

For Sheldon, the decision to leave football was the right one. He had an offer from Stirling University and the blow of leaving full-time football was softened by the knowledge that he would be playing for the university team.

Today, he works as a procurement officer for Edinburgh company Leonardo.

“I deferred my uni application for a year and I had to make a decision: ‘do I take a contract or do I go to uni and play football as well as study?’ For me, playing in that game was my first experience of the first team. I kind of felt that if I was to take a contract I didn’t think I would be playing week in, week out. I thought if I can combine my studies with playing football that would be best. To be honest, it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I do miss it and I still play fives now – and we played in Keags testimonial.”

Devon also turned his back on full-time football and has recently qualified as a fire fighter. He discovers where he will be stationed next week. He still plays for Bo’ness United and will likely find himself one step away from a return to senior football following the decision to award them the East of Scotland league title on Friday. A place in the Lowland League awaits next season.

And what of the other two? They have been on furlough since mid-March and have been given a glimpse of life after playing.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world playing fitba,” says Kyle. “It’s what I have always wanted to do, just being in and around the changing room every day. I’ve done a sports masters course, my wife’s a physio, so I will hopefully do something tied in with that.”

Meanwhile, Keaghan says: “Football is my hobby, I have done it for 20 years and I would never change it. When I was younger I didn’t think about what I would do – it was when I got to 26, 27 – but since then I have done quite a few courses.

“I think it’s a case of trial and error because I don’t want to leave football and regret what I am doing.”

They need only look at their brothers to see that there is life on the other side.