Jason Cummings has a smile as wide as Princes Street is long – and nothing is going to wipe it off his face.
The Hibs kid has found himself at the end of some put-me-downs on social media, not least from former Easter Road star Leigh Griffiths, as his post-match interviews have left everyone bemused and amused in equal measure.
Griffiths famously tagged the 19 year old as “Billy Big-time”, after his “touch of an angel” description of the close control which led to him scoring the first of two goals against Rangers at Ibrox, but today Cummings insisted he was just delighted to have been singled out by the now Celtic striker.
Celebrating after that glory double helped him win his first SPFL Championship young player of the month award, Cummings revealed he simply laps up the banter both from his team-mates and those who don’t know him so well.
He said: “I’m on social media and you always get good things and bad things. You just take it with a pinch of salt. It’s always from outsiders. The people who are behind it are people who don’t know what they are talking about.
“I just concentrate on what I do and try and take it out on to the football pitch. I wasn’t bothered what Leigh said – I love it. Just for Leigh to even tweet me was great. I’ve always liked him as a player and looked up to him. What he did here was outstanding.
“The fans loved him because he scored goals and that’s all I want to do. If I could do half of what he did then that would be perfect. The fact he even noticed me shows I am doing the right things. And it’s better being noticed than having nothing to say.”
But while he comes across as a happy-go-lucky character, Cummings is adamant football comes first, the former gardener determined to make the most of having a second bite at the cherry having been forced to have three operations on a knee injury which threatened to end his career before it had even begun.
Released by Hearts, Cummings went back to playing for boys club Hutchison Vale and had trials with Huddersfield Town, Dunfermline and Celtic before being snapped up by Hibs where he has enjoyed a stellar rise, on the bench within weeks of signing on at Easter Road and ending his first season as a professional as a first-team regular having proved to be a prolific scorer for the club’s Under-20 side.
Recalling those dark days, he said: “I was thinking ‘what am I going to do now?’ I only got the gardening job because my dad knew the guy I was working for. I had applied for Primark and didn’t get that. I didn’t get any jobs. It was hard to get one.
“But I kept working hard at my football and they believed in me and kept me going. Tam Smith [Hutchie’s club leader] helped me out massively. He rang up a lot of clubs. I went down to Huddersfield for a week, and they asked me to go back down, but it didn’t work out. I had trials with Dunfermline and Celtic and both of them didn’t want me.
“Eventually I got picked up here and I’ve been buzzing ever since.”
Cummings has certainly put a buzz into the Easter Road dressing-room with his zany sayings – “that’s what the lingo is like up in Saughton Mains” – the young striker pointing out there’s no rule preventing you from enjoying your job.
He said: “The boys in here have a bit of banter with me. But I love it. They call me everything, I get all sorts, that’s what it is all about. It’s the job I have always wanted to do and it’s the best job in the world for me. It’s a short career so you need to enjoy it when it’s happening.
“But I take my football very seriously. I try not to go out and drink at the weekend, I want to do things right. I go to the gym and all that but when it comes to after the game I like to have a laugh. You can have a laugh after beating Rangers 3-1. During the game I don’t do that, I know you can’t muck about. But when the time is right you have to have a laugh. If I didn’t enjoy football I wouldn’t play, and I want to keep enjoying it.
“Just coming into work puts a smile on my face. I’d say 80 per cent of the boys here left school and came straight into football. I left school and was a gardener for a year-and-a-half, just grafting. The banter there could be brutal, the van banter. But it’s the same with every job. If you take it too seriously, you end up not enjoying it.”
Cummings has taken a bit of advice from team-mate Paul Heffernan.
He said: “Heff taught me that this isn’t a dress rehearsal, it’s life. You have just got to try and enjoy life. I’m young and that’s what I am doing.
“You can’t make everyone happy, you are always going to get people who don’t like what you do.
“All I am bothered about is putting the ball in the back of the net for Hibs. It’s as simple as that.”