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Football: I'll never speak to Fergie again; LEIGHTON TELLS OF BITTER ROW.

ABERDEEN goalkeeper Jim Leighton has opened up for the first time about his bitterness towards Sir Alex Ferguson.

Veteran Leighton, who is expected to hang up his gloves in May to become the Dons' new specialist coach, has kept his silence on Fergie for a decade.

But now the former Scotland No.1 has finally chosen to slam the Manchester United boss who dropped a bombshell by dropping him for the 1990 FA Cup final replay at Wembley.

Les Sealey took over as United beat Crystal Palace to seal Ferguson's first trophy for the Red Devils four years after he quit his Pittodrie hot-seat.

Leighton's career nose-dived with loan spells at Arsenal, Sheffield United and Reading and a disastrous move to Dundee.

Wounds

However, he staged a comeback by joining Hibs and earned a sensational Scotland recall before agreeing a second stint with his beloved Dons in 1997.

But the wounds suffered by Ferguson's ruthless selection move have never properly healed.

Worse still, they were re-opened last year by the Scots legend's attack on Leighton and his wife Linda in his autobiography.

Leighton said: "I will always be grateful for the part Fergie played in my career when we were both at Aberdeen.

"That's why it really saddens me to see the way things went between us at Manchester United - and how he has conducted himself since as regards to certain things.

"His book has been a source of a lot of pain. It's terrible, a lot of really good people are in the same boat as me, seeing things written that we believe are not true.

"I won't speak to Ferguson again if I can help it because there are only so many cheeks you can turn to suit him and put up with some of the things he has done over the years."

Leighton revealed that his relationship with Ferguson had become strained long before the Wembley shocker which came two years after he joined United from the Dons.

He said: "It had broken down to the extent even going to Old Trafford had become a bit of a chore. I was going to ask for a transfer after the cup final - even if we had won. I just hated being at United at that time."

Leighton told how he might have returned to Aberdeen sooner had Ferguson not blocked a move by then Dons boss Alex Smith to take him back to the Granite City.

It was after the FA Cup disappointment and Leighton said: "Alex Smith asked to take me back on a three-month loan.

"Theo Snelders was sidelined by a bad face injury and I was excited because I saw it as a chance to maybe persuade Aberdeen to take me back permanently. I might have ended up at Aberdeen again through the 1990s - but Fergie wouldn't let me go."

Meanwhile, Forgotten Dons defender Stuart McCaffrey has vowed to finally show what he can do after solving his injury nightmare.

The former Hibs youngster was tipped for big things when he moved from Easter Road two years ago.

However, McCaffrey endured two unnecessary hernia operations before a specialist discovered he actually had a hip injury.

Now the 20-year-old is on Aberdeen's trip to Spain and is hoping to finally make his long-awaited debut.

He said: "Ebbe Skovdahl has told me I will get a fair chance of first-team football. It's a massive boost to be going to Spain and I plan to show the manager what I can do."

Aberdeen will play Spanish outfit Jerez and Dutch club Fortuna Sittard during the trip.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:McGREGOR, DEREK
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 10, 2000
Words:598
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