Jim Leighton became the fourth Aberdeen goalkeeper to progress to the national
side when he made his International debut on 13th October 1982, in a European Championship qualifier at Hampden against East Germany. The 24 year old distinguished himself on his debut, keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win.
Leighton kept his place for the subsequent qualifiers against Switzerland and Belgium away from home, and he received his fourth cap in the return game against the Swiss at Hampden in March 1983.
Despite steady displays in all four games, Jim's status as Scotland No.1 remained under threat from St Mirren's Billy Thomson. At the tail end of the 1982-83 season, Thomson was preferred for the first of the three British Championship matches, and on a summer tour of Canada the St Mirren custodian again got one cap to Leighton's two.
The crunch came on 16 November 1983, when Thomson got the nod over Leighton for the second game against the East Germans in the European Championship at Halle, but Billy looked to be at fault for one of the German goals in a 2-1 defeat.
Leighton returned for his 11th cap against Northern Ireland in December, 1983 and from that point on was the undisputed first choice Scotland goalie. Jim became a key component in the Scotland set-up, and he played a major part in Scotland's successful bid to reach the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico, including fine performances in vital games such as a narrow 1-0 win over Iceland and a 3-1 win over Spain.
On 27th February 1985 Leighton became the most capped Dons keeper in history when he faced Spain in Seville, but a 1-0 loss in the World Cup qualifier took the edge off Jim's 18th cap.
Over the following three seasons Jim went on to add a further 24 Scottish caps to his collection, including three in the 1986 World Cup finals, before making the move at club level to Manchester United. This gave him a total of 42 caps as an Aberdeen player.
In his early career, Jim first came to prominence with Ayrshire side Dalry Thistle before joining the Dons as a 19 year old in 1977. Within weeks of signing, Jim was off to Europe with Aberdeen when a combination of an injury to long-time Dons keeper Bobby Clark and a passport problem for reserve John Gardiner, left Leighton as the only real candidate for the goalie's jersey on a club visit to Yugoslavia. His lightning promotion was a one-off however, and he soon found himself farmed out to Highland League outfit Deveronvale. Jim gained valuable experience at Princess Royal Park and on numerous occasions was credited with winning the points for "Vale".
During the 1977-78 close season Bobby Clark's troublesome shoulder injury flared up again and kept him out of the Aberdeen side for the opening of the following season, Alex Ferguson's first in charge. The new boss had little hesitation in pitching young Leighton into the fray from the off and Jim did a capable job. As a consequence he began to be mentioned as a possible candidate for the Scotland under-21 squad.
Clark returned to full fitness and reclaimed his No.1 jersey in November 1978, and for the rest of the season Leighton slugged it out with colleague John Gardiner to win the battle for the No.2 spot in the eyes of Alex Ferguson. Leighton successfully saw off Gardiner's challenge, and in the wake of the Dons 1980 Scottish League title triumph Jim stepped into the side for the again injured Clark, and from that point never looked back.
The young goalie played his part in helping to maintain the Dons' success, giving the impression that he had played all his days behind Alex McLeish and Willie Miller. It must have been soul destroying for opposing strikers to pick up the crumbs sparingly offered by those two gentlemen only to find Big Jim the route to goal.
Leighton quickly became recognised as one of the country's premier keepers, and made a nonsense of Fergie's decision to sign experienced Belgian Marc de Clerck. From the beginning of the 1980-81 season to the end of the 1984-85 campaign, Jim missed out on only five first team outings in over 240 games, keeping a clean sheet in more than half those appearances.
During that spell he amassed all the honours available with the Dons at that time, as well as establishing himself as Scotland's No.1. There is no doubt that Leighton, as the last line of defence, was a vital member of the Dons' European Cup Winner's Cup side that triumphed in Gothenburg.
In his early days Jim dazzled with his reaction saves and his ability to win those one-to-one situations that strikers love. And over the years he developed to become a superb all-round keeper, with that all important ability needed by the custodian in any dominant, successful side - to make a save after being out of the game for a long spell.
After Leighton left Pittodrie in 1988 for Old Trafford the sky seemed to be the limit for the keeper who had made the English experts eat their words about Scottish goalies. In May, 1989 Jim was made Scotland skipper for the 50th cap, a Rous Cup game against Chile at Hampden. And in March 1990, he set a new mark for Scotland goalkeepers when he broke Alan Rough's existing record with a 54th cap in a sensational 1-0 win over Argentina - the goal scored by former club mate Stewart McKimmie.
Unfortunately, things began to go sadly wrong at club level, culminating in his much publicised exclusion from the Manchester United side to face Crystal Palace in the replay of the 1990 FA Cup final. To his credit, Scotland boss Andy Roxburgh stood by his man for the subsequent 1990 World Cup finals, but in the wake of the Scots agonising exit after a 1-0 loss to Brazil, Roxburgh felt he could not keep a reserve team player as Scotland's first choice keeper.
Jim spent three years in the wilderness, during which time he left Old Trafford for Dens Park, although it took a move to Easter Road in 1993 before the healing process began in earnest. His rehabilitation was complete with a recall to the Scotland side later that year, and finally in 1995 Jim came full circle by regaining his place as Scotland's No.1.
Jim returned to Pittodrie in 1997 for another 3 seasons before bowing out in the infamous 1999-00 Scottish Cup Final against Rangers where he was stretchered off on 4mins after a clash with Rod Wallace. Jim became Goalkeeping Coach at Pittodrie after retiring in 2000.