Neil Lennon insists he wouldn’t change a thing about Jason Cummings as he tipped Hibs’ madcap star striker for a prolonged future at the top level.
The ever-exuberant 21-year-old geared up for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen by playfully ambushing professional wrestler Grado in the training centre canteen as he visited the club on Tuesday.
The video of the jovial scenes duly went viral as Cummings cemented his status as one of the most endearing characters in Scottish football. Lennon found the episode hilarious and has no problem with his top scorer indulging in such high jinks because he believes it raises dressing-room morale. He is adamant Cummings’ wacky tendencies are of no detriment to his ability to flourish as a footballer.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” said Lennon. “Grado was up doing some filming for charity and Jason was actually getting treatment for his back. When he realised Grado was up, him and Dylan [McGeouch] were like big kids in the playground. They conducted this little routine and I didn’t realise how good it was going to be. I think it epitomises Jason. There aren’t enough personalities in the game and he’s all personality. It’s all harmless with him.
“Allied to that, he’s a good footballer as well and I wouldn’t change anything about him. I think the fact it became so popular, you realise his sense of humour that he has. The lads love him. We’ve got a good squad, a good spirit and we’ll need all of that on Saturday. He’s good for the game and I think that’s the type of boys we are looking for. You don’t want all of them to be like that! But we could certainly do with a few more. He delivers. He’s a wee bit gallus but not rude or arrogant in any way. He’s just an unconscious comedian!”
Hibs have nurtured several highly-regarded young players over the last 15 years, although not all of them have fulfilled their potential. Lennon believes Cummings has the right attributes to ensure he follow the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Whittaker and Steven Fletcher in terms of maximising his ability, as opposed to Derek Riordan and Garry O’Connor, who are widely viewed as unfulfilled talents.
“There have been a few here but I don’t see Jason going down the road of O’Connor or Riordan,” said Lennon. “I want him to look at Brown and Whittaker and the Kevin Thomsons of this world and have a career at a prolonged level. Through all the bluster, he’s actually quite a down to earth, smart boy. And I think he knows what he wants out of his career so I hope he stays on the right track.”
Cummings has scored 69 goals for Hibs over the last three years, including 21 this season. Lennon insists that, despite his perception as a perennial mischief-maker, his top scorer is a dedicated professional. “Listen he’s a good pro – he doesn’t miss training, he trains every day,” said the manager. “He doesn’t skip out of anything, he never pulls a sickie. He comes in every day and he wants to work. He wants to get better. He knows he’s got something, and he’s quite cold, he sees the white in the goalkeeper’s eyes and nine times out of ten he scores – so there is intelligence in there somewhere. At times you think he looks clumsy or a little bit unorthodox. The next thing he bends one into the top corner.”
“I dropped him at one stage [this season] and we played really well and scored lots of goals. I think he was sitting on the outside looking in, thinking: ‘I don’t want to be sat here’, but he never came knocking on my door, he just got on with his training and when the opportunity came he took it. He has been priceless to us and I want him to continue because the season is not over – we want him to have a big say against Aberdeen as well.”