Hibs boss Terry Butcher today revealed he’s catapulted teenage strike sensation Jason Cummings into his Scottish Cup squad after the youngster took his goals tally for the season to 24 with a hat-trick against Hamilton Under-20s.
And joining the 19-year-old on the team coach which will head to Dingwall later today in preparation for tomorrow’s clash with Ross County will be defender Michael Nelson, who made his comeback from a shattered cheekbone in that 4-0 win at New Douglas Park.
Butcher admitted Cummings, who was working as a gardener during the summer, had caught his eye on his very first day at Easter Road as Hibs’ Under-20 side faced Partick Thistle and his treble on Wednesday night – the highlight of which was a spectacular overhead kick – persuaded him to include him in his plans as Hibs begin their bid to reach the final of the Scottish Cup for the third year in succession.
Cummings actually made his debut in a green-and-white shirt as Butcher sat in the stand at Easter Road mulling over the Edinburgh club’s bid to install him as Pat Fenlon’s successor as his old club Inverness Caley cruised to a 2-0 win, the youngster replacing James Collins for the final 28 minutes of that match.
But while Butcher admitted he hadn’t taken it in at the time as he was so wrapped up in his own thoughts about his future, Cummings’ performance at Firhill a couple of nights later made him sit up and take notice, with Wednesday’s hat-trick adding to an already impressive strike-rate in both the SPL Under-20 and East of Scotland Leagues convincing him the kid was due his place in the cup squad with Hibs having drawn a blank in their last five games.
The manager said: “I really like him, he excites me. There’s something about him. A Johnny Russell or a David Goodwillie, that sort of build. Not big, tall and powerful, but he is punchy and with a lovely left foot.
“You can see there is a real hunger there, a real desire to do well and an eye for a goal obviously. He’s shown great appetite and enthusiasm for the game and when I like what I see then I put them in the squad.”
Neslon came through the Under-20s match unscathed after being out of action for more than a month having required an operation on a cheekbone shattered in three places in a clash of heads with Celtic’s Amido Balde and has come straight back into Butcher’s thoughts while Rowan Vine will also be available having escaped with an SFA censure following an angry Twitter exchange with Hoops’ boss Neil Lennon, who had accused the Hibs forward of a “rugby-esque” challenge on his player Darnell Fisher.
Butcher, of course, is well aware of Hibs’ cup record, and the fact they haven’t beaten Ross County in six previous meetings, while he didn’t win the cup as a player and has yet to win at the Staggies’ Victoria Park. But, he insisted, such historical facts have no bearing on tomorrow’s match.
He said: “Football is about firsts. We don’t do negatives, everything is positive. It’s a Premiership game to all intents and purposes.”