SCOTLAND LEGEND LEIGHTON RECKONS COVE RANGERS ARE LUCKY TO HAVE STUART BETWEEN THE STICKS
SUPER STOPPER: Scotland legend Jim Leighton rates Cove Rangers goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie very highly.
COVE Rangers No1 Stuart McKenzie has received praise from a man who knows a thing or two about goalkeeping - Scotland legend Jim Leighton.
Former Aberdeen keeper Jim, who made a record 91 appearances for Scotland, was a guest of match sponsors ACE Group at our 5-0 victory over Edinburgh City on the first day of the league campaign.
So it was only natural to ask Jim - who won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with the Dons in 1983 as well as two league titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup and was in the national squad at the finals of the 1982, 86, 90 and 98 World Cups - what he thought of fellow goalkeeper Stuart.
“He’s one of the best goalies going about in Scotland, never mind just in the lower divisions,” replied Jim.
“He was by far the best in the Highland League before going to Montrose for a couple of seasons.
“I was a little surprised Cove managed to get him back but it was no shock to see Stuart then show he was still the best at Highland level.
“I’ve always felt Stuart is a keeper who could have played at the very highest levels if he had been given the opportunity.
“Cove are fortunate to have him, especially with Stuart now at the age when you tend to see keepers reaching their peak.
“He doesn’t make loads of flashy saves, Stuart doesn’t need to because he uses his experience well to make sure his positioning is spot on.
“I also like the way he commands from the back and his distribution is among the best I’ve seen from any goalkeeper.
“Another big attribute is his concentration levels, which you need when you are playing for Cove and don’t get a lot to do because they tend to dominate games, particularly at home.
“It’s important for Cove to have strength at the back now that they are playing at the higher level.
“They certainly have that with Stuart, it’s an old cliche but he will guarantee them a few more points over the course of the campaign because they can trust him to do what’s required when it’s needed most.
“He will have a big say in where they eventually end up.”
IMPRESSED: Dons great Jim Leighton likes what he has seen during his visits to Balmoral Stadium.
Jim, who is also one of the country’s leading goalkeeping coaches, enjoyed being at our first ever game in the SPFL and believes Aberdeen will reap benefits from now having more than one side competing at the highest level.
“It’s fantastic to have a second team in the city,” he said
“The facilities at Balmoral are excellent and the standard of football played by Cove is first class.
“I played half a game at Cove’s previous home Allan Park when I was coming back from an injury.
“But had been there to watch many games too, so know exactly how far Cove have come in recent years in particular.
“I was over watching the Dundee game as well earlier this season and they didn’t look out of place against them either.
“They were even more impressive against Edinburgh City, so I’m really looking forward to keeping an eye on how Cove progress during the season.
“It won’t be easy for them because a lot of the other teams in League Two will be looking at that result and setting themselves up in a manner that could be frustrating at times for the players.
“But they have a top class manager in Paul Hartley who I’m sure will enjoy the challenge that presents.
“He’s added to what John Sheran and his coaching team had already installed at the club and the experience Paul has from all levels of the game will help to make Cove even better.
“But his job will be easier because John had already brought some very good players to the club.
“I know the likes of Scott Ross, Jamie Masson and Mitch Megginson from their time at Aberdeen.
“Cove have also produced some good ones of their own, like Connor Scully and Blair Yule who played key parts in the club earning promotion last season.
“They already had a really good spine from back to front.
“With Paul adding his own players, you can only see better things ahead for the club.”
Now aged 61, Jim hasn’t worked full-time in football since leaving the Dons in 2015, although he still runs his own goalkeeper coaching school, for mainly youngsters, in Aberdeen.
He’s also a business development manager with city firm Nippon Gasses.
“I’m kept busy and really enjoying what I do,” he said.