Browsing Derek Riordan videos on Youtube has become a favourite pastime for Jason Cummings. The Hibs forward has scored in each of his last seven games and credits Riordan, who is back training at East Mains, with influencing the goals boom.
Confidence oozes from Cummings as he arrives to talk about his form. He will again lead the attack for Scotland Under-21s against Ukraine on Friday night and, having blitzed club football with 13 goals in 18 games this season, is desperate to bulge some nets at international level. Having Riordan around the Hibs training ground each day has helped enormously.
Despite regrettable pub scuffles and court appearances, Riordan’s talent cannot be questioned. He is now 32 and without a club, but remains a cult hero at Easter Road for his spectacular scoring feats over two spells there. From 2001 to 2006, and then 2008 to 2011, he was the darling of the Hibs support. Much the way Cummings is at the moment.
Riordan also won three Scotland caps and played four times for the Under-21s, so it is little wonder Cummings can draw parallels. The pair have trained together since September when Riordan re-appeared at East Mains. It is no coincidence that Cummings then began hitting new heights of goalscoring consistency. Youtube highlights have helped him fully appreciate the exploits of his Hibs predecessor.
“Derek has been training with us for the past few months and I have learned a lot from him,” said the 20-year-old. “I have just been watching him in training and he has been different class. Deeks has told me how to work on my game and my finishing. That’s why I have had such a good spell with Hibs.
“Since Derek has trained with us I have scored in every game and I have learnt a lot from him. Deeks was different class. The other night I typed his name into Youtube and watched some of his goals. Some of his goals were just unbelievable back in the day. He is the same now and he still sticks the ball in the top corner at finishing drills. It is a joy to watch Derek and learn from him.”
Cummings is also now able to benefit from a touch of advice from an experienced player who knows only too well the pitfalls of fame and fortune. “That’s true. I have been working hard on that side of my game and Derek has given me a few pointers on that; on different things away from football. He has helped me a lot.
“Derek has had a great career. He played at the top and got his move to Celtic and he was different class at Hibs. He was an unbelievable player and it is a pleasure to train with him and learn from him.”
Riordan was a forward who thrived on confidence and Cummings is no different. In that regard, he has never felt so self-assured as he does right now. Is this the most prosperous spell of his career to date? “Probably. I’ve never scored in seven games in a row,” he admitted.
“I’m very confident at the moment with the way Hibs have been doing. We’ve been flying. We’ve not lost in 13 games so I’m just confident going in with Scotland Under-21s now. It’s a good time. I picked up the Player of the Month award, too, so I’m having a good spell at the moment. Hibs are doing well and now I’m looking forward to being involved with the 21s.
“With the way I’m feeling now, I’m going into every game knowing I’m going to score. It’s a good feeling. I’ve not scored for Scotland Under-21s yet, though. I’ve scored in my last seven games for Hibs so, going into this game on Friday, I’m looking forward to trying to score for Scotland.
Scoring is the habit of a lifetime for Cummings, dating back to his childhood days with Hutchison Vale. “I lost count of the number I scored back then, probably close to a hundred in a season. I used to score about five a game but that’s boys’ club football. In the Hibs Under-20s I scored something like 24 in a season. But this season I’m on course, I’m flying, so hopefully I can score a lot. I always like to score more than I did the previous season so that’s probably my target.
He finished last season as the Scottish Championship’s top goalscorer. The lack of an award for such a feat still grates with him slightly. “I won the top goalscorer in the Championship last year and I didn’t even get a Golden Boot or anything. So there is no real point in winning it is there? I am just concentrating on myself and I am just trying to improve and score more goals than last season. If I do that then it will be perfect for me.
He isn’t fazed by pressure even with national coach Gordon Strachan watching Scotland Under-21 training sessions closely this week. Players like Riordan and Scott Brown came through the youth academy at Hibs and went on to work with Strachan at Celtic. In Brown’s case, Scotland too. Cummings sees them as his benchmark.
“Hibs are great for creating players who go on to bigger and better things. I do look up to a lot of the players who were at Hibs and have moved onto bigger and better things. Most of them have done well for Scotland in the senior team, too.”