WE’VE all been there, at the bar watching football and listening to the
post match analysis, and thinking, “If I got half the chance to do that
I mightn’t be half bad.”
Well, in a roundabout way, that is what happened to Dublin native Keith Costigan,
who went from being a pony-tailed barman in the faux bar of Fox Soccer Channel’s
Fox Football Friday to a close-cropped pundit with some forthright opinions
and a sometime scant regard for reputation.
Recently, standing in for Steve Cohen on Fox Football Fone-In (the show airs
on Mondays at 8 p.m. EST) Costigan confronted LA Galaxy general manager Alexei
Lalas about David Beckham.
The English superstar appeared on Snoop Dogg’s reality TV show taking
free kicks against the rapper’s kids, but would not come on the Fox show
and talk football. While Lalas made the ratings defense – how they are
trying reach a new audience and how they look at the numbers who watch that
show – he couldn’t really give a valid answer to Costigan, who called
it “a joke.”
For Costigan, who is an analyst on the Soccer Sunday Plus show and guest hosts
on Fox Football Fone-In, it ranked as one of his best moments on the channel.
Direct but avoiding confrontation, the Irishman voiced an opinion that is shared
by many hardcore Major League Soccer fans who feel Beckham has to grow the game
from the MLS out, instead of the mass culture in.
Costigan and fellow Fox Soccer presenters Steven Cohen and Nick Webster have
been requesting Beckham to appear on their show for some time and speak to the
people who most admire him, and therefore expect most from him.
“In fairness to Alexei, he is a good sport and always gives you a straight
answer. He doesn’t hide behind his position at any club. The feedback
we got from fans is that we asked the questions they wanted to ask,” Costigan
told the Irish Voice in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
The galaxy he finds himself in now is far removed from the world of Coolock,
Co. Dublin, where Costigan, a left-footed full back, grew up playing schoolboy
football with St. Kevin’s and later Stella Maris. He then went on to have
spells with Bohemians and Bray Wanderers in the League of Ireland.
When the opportunity of a scholarship at Cal State presented itself, Costigan
left the grey beaches of Bray for the sunny climbs of California. He also slotted
into a center midfield role during his college years and graduated with a degree
in finance. Immediately after college he got the opportunity to play in England
with Luton Town and duly took it. However, the man who brought him to England
was fired and the new manager had his own plans, so after three months Costigan
headed back to the U.S. and played with the Portland Timbers in the A-league
for two years.
A brief and not too happy spell with Harrisburg City Islanders in Pennsylvania
ensued before Costigan returned to the West Coast to move on to the next phase
of his life. But what to do? Though armed with his finance degree, Costigan
fell into the world of broadcasting by accident.
“I was always the joker of the teams I was a part of, and when I was at
Portland I did a lot of interviews with media,” says Costigan.
He was friends with Fox soccer journalist Nick Webster (the two coach a high
school team together) and when the opening for the barman’s job on the
then Fox Football Friday show came up, Webster thought Costigan would be the
After a slow start, the blond barman started to find his voice and impressed
bosses at the station enough to take him out from behind the bar and put him
into the pundit’s chair in front of the camera. (And, no he didn’t
cut his hair to get the job, instead he got the chop before a Christmas trip
home, as a present to his father, who was not the biggest fan of his flowing
For Costigan, who admits it took time to get used to working with the camera,
but that time and experience gained have made him more comfortable as a presenter
and game-caller, punditry in Ireland and England is not so different than it
is over here.
“I think everybody has their own style. We have some great pundits here.
Max Bretos is a very good interviewer,” he says.
“I don’t think there is an Irish way or an American way. Everybody
brings something to the table. I try to take and learn from everybody. Growing
up I used to watch Johnny Giles on Irish television, I thought he was very good.
Over here Nick (Webster) Max and Christian Miles are very good.”
A Liverpool fan through and through, Costigan writes a column for Kop magazine
in Liverpool and until recently co-hosted a Liverpool radio show with Webster.
Even he is left scratching his head at the ownership squabbles undermining the
‘It’s a difficult situation. The Liverpool way has always been to
handle their business internally,” he says.
“We really don’t know the full story of what is going on behind
closed doors. I think it will all unfold over the summer but until its going
to be people stabbing each other in the back in the press is not good for Liverpool
or football in general.”
One perk of the job is the chance to interview the rich and famous. In soccer
terms you don’t get any more rich or famous than Beckham, but Costigan
also recently interviewed Sinead O’Connor, whose song “Something
Beautiful” is being used in a Fox Soccer Channel promo.
She admitted to him that she’s not the biggest fan of soccer, and all
she really knows about the sport is the photo of George Best on the bed with
the model and all that cash!
For now the Dubliner is happy in LA but has not ruled out plans to travel to
the big championships. “In the future I would like to travel, and I want
to go to the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa. I hope (new Irish soccer boss
Giovanni) Trapattoni does a good job because as an Irishman, it would be great
to have the Irish team there,” he says.
In the meantime Costigan will continue to call games and tell it how he sees
it. You might agree with him, but then again if you don’t, maybe you can
get off your seat in the bar and take a stab at it. Stranger things have happened.
(Super Sunday Plus airs every week on Fox Soccer Channel at 1 p.m. EST.)
Costigan Says ...
SINCE the Irish Voice had the ear of Fox Soccer Channel analyst Keith Costigan,
we decided to put him on the spot about a few topics of interest:
Can David Beckham still be a success in the MLS?
I think so. When David Beckham came over here the expectations were raised and
last year the results weren’t what Beckham or anyone involved in MLS would
I think this season if the Galaxy has a successful year, and a successful year
with a David Beckham in the side is making it to the MLS Cup. If they can so
that, then he can turn it around and have people looking at him as a success
on the pitch.
We all know how successful he is off the pitch. That aside, he needs to turn
the results around at the Galaxy before he can be considered a true success.
Can Ronnie O’Brien, now of the San Jose Earthquakes, recapture his
Dallas FC form and become one of MLS’ marquee players again?
Ronnie was actually at Bray Wanderers, too. I missed out on him but everyone
that was around at the club said how good he was. I thought he was tremendous
during his time in Dallas, but I think injuries have caught up with him. He
didn’t look fully fit when I saw him play recently.
Once you have the skill level that Ronnie has I think can return but he has
to got to stay away from injuries and build up his match fitness. It’s
a case of starting over, but we all know that he as the skill level to do it.
Are there any other Irish players to keep an eye on in the league?
I know Michael Parkhurst, the defender in New England, has an Irish background.
I know I am biased, but I do think if he had of declared for the Irish squad
he would have been a valid member of the squad.
In regard to other Irish players, I think a lot of them come to college but
a lot go home as there are better options at home instead of staying here and
trying to stick it out, especially with the foreign player rule.
What do you think of Giovanni Trapattoni’s appointment to the Irish
I think it is a good appointment. We needed to move in a different route. Over
the last five or six years we have gone with managers with no experience at
the top level.
Now I was a fan of Brian Kerr, he was a manager at Belvedere when I played at
Stella Maris, so I was very familiar with him. But he didn’t get the job
done for whatever reason, and I was never totally happy with the appointment
of Steve Staunton.
I do think that the Irish job should be a cherished job and not be given to
someone who never had any experience as a full time coach at any level. I do
think (Trapattoni) is the right way to go and I applaud the appointment of Liam
Brady, who I do think will bridge the gap between players and Trapattoni and
make the transition much easier.