Jim Leighton

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This article is about the Scottish football player. For the American chemist, see James L. Leighton.
Jim Leighton
Jim Leighton 2009.jpg
Personal information
Full name James Leighton
Date of birth (1958-07-24) 24 July 1958 (age 58)
Place of birth Johnstone, Scotland
Height 6 ft 1.5 in (1.87 m)
Playing position Goalkeeper
Youth career
0000–1977 Dalry Thistle
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1977–1988 Aberdeen 300 (0)
1977–1978 Deveronvale (loan)
1988–1991 Manchester United 73 (0)
1991 Arsenal (loan) 0 (0)
1991–1992 Reading (loan) 8 (0)
1992–1993 Dundee 21 (0)
1993 Sheffield United (loan) 0 (0)
1993–1997 Hibernian 151 (0)
1997–2000 Aberdeen 82 (0)
Total 635 (0)
National team
1982–1998 Scotland 91 (0)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

James "Jim" Leighton MBE (born 24 July 1958 in Johnstone, Renfrewshire) is a Scottish former football goalkeeper. Among the clubs he played for are Aberdeen (two spells), Manchester United, Arsenal, Dundee and Hibernian.

Club career[edit]

Leighton joined Aberdeen from Scottish junior club Dalry Thistle in 1977. Before breaking into the Aberdeen first team he was loaned out for one season to Banff, Highland Football League club, Deveronvale FC. Leighton achieved his greatest success under the management of Alex Ferguson in the early to mid-1980s. Ferguson's Aberdeen side won the Scottish Cup four times, the Scottish League Cup twice, as well as the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983 and three Premier Division titles in 1980, 1984 and 1985.

Leighton's reliability and terrific will to win gained respect from players and pundits everywhere. English keeper Peter Shilton said of him: "Scotland have solved their goalkeeper problem." Even the outspoken Brian Clough said: "Jim Leighton is a rare bird – a Scottish goalkeeper that can be relied on."

Alex Ferguson had departed to Manchester United in 1986, and two years later Ferguson brought him from Pittodrie to Old Trafford for £500,000. His first season at Old Trafford was successful, even though United finished 11th in the league, as he conceded just 35 league goals and kept 14 clean sheets, only conceding more than two goals on one occasion in all competitions. However, 1989–90 was a difficult season for player and club, as United finished 13th in the league, although they did reach the FA Cup final – their first major final in five years.

His erratic form in the league was particularly evident when United were defeated 5–1 by newly promoted neighbours Manchester City, as well as a number of errors in other games as the season went on, although he remained as United's regular goalkeeper. This culminated in him being dropped in favour of Les Sealey for the 1990 FA Cup Final replay against Crystal Palace. Leighton had conceded three goals in the first match as United drew 3–3, and Sealey made a series of spectacular saves as United won the replay 1–0.

Sealey retained the position of first choice goalkeeper for the following season after signing a permanent contract, and Leighton played just one more game for United, although he would remained contracted to the club for nearly two more years. Although Sealey left in June 1991, Leighton's chances of a first team comeback were left looking even more unlikely that summer when United signed Peter Schmeichel.

He eventually returned to Scotland with Dundee in March 1992, after loan spells with Arsenal, Reading and Sheffield United. After the 1990 FA Cup Final, Leighton's only first team game for United had been against Halifax Town in the Football League Cup on 26 September 1990.

A move to Hibernian led to a hugely successful spell where he played over 150 games, missing only one league game in four seasons. The revival in his fortunes included a return to the Scottish national team, of which he remained part of until his 40th year. During his spell with Hibernian he collected 23 of his 91 Scotland caps.

Finally Leighton returned to Aberdeen, retiring from club football after the 2000 Scottish Cup Final defeat against Rangers. This match marked a sad end to a distinguished career, as he was substituted due to injury after just three minutes. With no substitute goalkeeper available, forward Robbie Winters took over in goal and Aberdeen lost 4–0. Leighton's final league appearance that season meant that he set the record for the oldest player in the Scottish Premier League at 41 years and 302 days, a record which was broken by Andy Millen in 2007.[1]

International career[edit]

Leighton's international career lasted for 16 years, from 1982 to 1998. He was an uncapped squad member for the 1982 World Cup, before making his debut against East Germany on 13 October 1982. Within two years he was his country's No. 1, and he played in all of his country's matches at the 1986, 1990 and 1998 World Cups, despite stiff competition for the keeper's jersey from Andy Goram during the 1990s.He retired from international football in 1998, his last match being a European Championship qualifier against Estonia on 10 October 1998, at the age of 40 years and 78 days, which set a new record as the oldest player to play for Scotland. The record was broken by David Weir in September 2010.[2]

Leighton is a member of the Scotland Football Hall of Fame, having won his 50th cap for Scotland in 1989. He won 91 international caps for Scotland and is second only to Kenny Dalglish in the appearance records.

Coaching career[edit]

Leighton became Aberdeen's goalkeeping coach after retiring as a player. He parted company with Aberdeen in August 2009 when the then manager Mark McGhee chose to replace him with Colin Meldrum.[3] In February 2010 he was appointed as goalkeeping coach for Huntly in the Highland League.[4] Leighton was reappointed as the goalkeeping coach at Aberdeen on 13 December 2010, the first act of the new management team of Craig Brown and Archie Knox.[5] Leighton left the club at the end of the 2014/15 season.[6] He commented soon afterwards that he would look for work outside football, as he was unwilling to relocate from Aberdeen.[7]



Manchester United



  1. ^ Millen confirmed as SPL's oldest, BBC Sport, 14 May 2007
  2. ^ Wright, Angus (25 August 2010). "David Weir in line for milestone after recall to Scotland fold". The Scotsman. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Dons Goalkeeping Coach Moves On, AFC.co.uk, 23 August 2009
  4. ^ Huntly snap up Dons Legend Leighton as goalkeeper coach Press and Journal, 16 February 2010
  5. ^ New Management team RedWeb, 13 December 2010
  6. ^ Gilfeather, Frank (21 May 2015). "Leighton departs Aberdeen with no fanfare, 38 years on". The Herald. Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Aberdeen: Jim Leighton fears end of coaching career". BBC Sport. BBC. 21 June 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2015. 

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