Neil Lennon has revealed how he persuaded some of the biggest names in British football to “have a word” with Jason Cummings as the prolific Hibs striker pondered leaving Easter Road earlier in the summer.
The Hibs boss admitted the 21-year-old was “of a mind to go” before he invited the player to join him in Paris where he was part of the BBC’s team commentating on Euro 2016.
Lennon, however, was determined to do all he could to keep the youngster – Hibs’ top scorer in each of the two previous seasons – in Edinburgh, admitting he’d have talked things through with him and his agent whether it was in “France, Ireland or Timbuktu”.
The upshot was Cummings signing a few four-year deal with Hibs, who only last week turned down an offer in excess of £1 million from English League One outfit Peterborough United for their star player.
Lennon said: “At the start, Jason was of a mindset to go. We had a good chat before I went to France, then him and his agent came out there for a couple of days. We talked about what I thought of him and how his career should go. I spoke to his agent about things and when he left he was really happy with what we had to say. We haven’t lied about anything. We just told him straight what we wanted, where we wanted to take him and the club and he’s on board with that. The deal was done and all parties were very happy with it. It wasn’t difficult.
“There was, and is, genuine interest from other clubs, but we’re not under any pressure to sell. I’m of the mindset that he’s not going anywhere. I need him and the club needs him. He needs us as well.
“I would have made time to speak to him no matter where I was. That was my priority. The agent had talked to me about his mindset but I’d said we had to sit down and talk things through. Whether that was in France. Ireland or Timbuktu, I’d have got my point across to him eventually. Thankfully, they were receptive to it.”
However, Lennon disclosed how he’d enlisted some of football’s big guns to give him a helping hand. He said: “The caveat to the whole thing was getting these guys to speak to him, I’d pre-empted it all by speaking to them in advance. I’m not sure how much that swayed him. It was a big decision for him to make and we feel he’s made the right one. I got fifteen of them to speak. There was Alan Shearer, Rio Ferdinand, Martin Keown – who you don’t want to get on the wrong side of – Chris Waddle, Dean Saunders.
“They didn’t talk about Hibs. It was about football in general and he really enjoyed himself. I spoke to him the next day, before he flew back, and told him to work with us for a while.”
While Cummings will be the first name on Lennon’s teamsheet for tonight’s Betfred Cup clash with Queen of the South at Easter Road, new signing Ofir Marciano will again be missing, the goalkeeper still awaiting a work permit before his season-long loan from Ashdod can be completed.
Lennon said: “It’s just paperwork really. I can’t envisage it being held up too long because he’s played all the international games when, for a work permit, you need to play 75 per cent. It’s just a question of getting it through. We’re working hard in the background and confident it will be done soon.”
Dylan McGeouch will also miss the game but is expected to have fully recovered from his hamstring problem for the visit of Dunfermline on Saturday.