James (“Jim”) Leighton (born 24 July 1958 in Johnstone) is a former football goalkeeper. Among the clubs he played for are Aberdeen (two spells), Manchester United and Hibernian. He joined Aberdeen from Dalry Thistle in 1978. He also won 91 international caps for Scotland, a number surpassed only by Kenny Dalglish.
It was during his initial spell at Aberdeen where 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 Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 and two Scottish Premier League titles in 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.”
In 1988, Leighton followed Ferguson to Manchester United. His first season at Old Trafford was relatively successful but his second was marked by a loss of form and confidence. This culminated in his being dropped in favour of Les Sealey for the FA Cup final replay against Crystal Palace in 1990.
Sealey retained the position of first choice goalkeeper for the following season and Leighton faded from view, eventually returning to Scottish football with Dundee after loan spells with Arsenal, Reading and Sheffield United.
His move to Hibernian marked a revival in his fortunes, including a return to the national team. Leighton returned to Aberdeen, retiring from club football after the 2000 Scottish Cup final, which unfortunately saw him taken off injured after just 3 minutes. With forward Robbie Winters taking over goalkeeping duties, Aberdeen lost 4-0 to Rangers.
Leighton’s international career stretched over 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 October 13, 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 October 1998, at the age of 40.
Leighton is a member of the Scotland Football Hall of Fame, having won his 50th cap for Scotland in 1989. He is currently back with his old team Aberdeen as the club’s goalkeeping coach.