Soccer

On eve of MLS Cup, Adrian Healey looks back at career path, commentating influences

ESPN soccer play-by-play commentator Adrian Healey (Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
ESPN soccer play-by-play commentator Adrian Healey (Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

Play-by-play commentator Adrian Healey will call his second MLS Cup this weekend with lead match analyst Taylor Twellman when Sporting KC hosts Real Salt Lake on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN). A native of Swindon in Wiltshire, England, Healey has been a soccer commentator and host for ESPN since 2003 after previously working in radio and TV for the MLS’s New England Revolution.

On the eve of calling Major League Soccer’s championship event, Front Row talked to Healey about his very early work in broadcasting.

You began your career at a young age in something called “hospital radio.” What is that?
It’s like a local NPR [National Public Radio] operation, originally formed to broadcast just to hospitals. It retained the name from an earlier era.

How did that job opportunity come about?
I was 13, and I had always dreamed about being a commentator. I got a chance to work for my local professional team, Swindon, in the third division. They were covered by this local radio station, which was mostly a volunteer operation, but a lot of people listened to it. My dad knew someone who worked there and mentioned I was interested in commentating. I had to call a reserve game first for a trial, but they realized, “Oh yeah, you really can do it!”

What do you remember about your first game?
I’ll always remember my first game, which Swindon won 8-0 against a team called Bury. From that moment, I was hooked. They must’ve thought I was some sort of lucky charm because they invited me back. I think they also liked the fact that my high voice at the time carried over their old equipment.

Who were some of your commentating influences at the time?
BBC had two commentators who were huge influences on me. First, there was Barry Davies – I always loved the way he commentated. I remember the excitement of seeing him come to Swindon. It was a rare thing that they got the national spotlight on a BBC game, but they did one week. I was in the stands watching Barry take his place in the commentary booth. I thought it looked impossibly glamorous and knew I wanted to be doing what he was doing. Brian Moore was also someone I used to listen to a lot and really enjoyed.

How did you make it to the United States from England? What was your first job here?
I came to the U.S. in 1992 to work in radio, on the music side at WFNX in Boston. I started soccer work again in 1997 just after the MLS formed.