I have a dream says Hibs kid Jason Cummings

A barrowload: Jason Cummings has been prolific for Hibs Under-20s
A barrowload: Jason Cummings has been prolific for Hibs Under-20s
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Hibs kid Jason Cummings will drop off to sleep tonight to enjoy a recurring dream – watching the ball ripple the back of the opponent’s net.

Tonight, however, his slumbers will be accompanied by Scotland’s 1982 World Cup song, the BA Robertson-penned song sung by John Gordon Sinclair.

And tomorrow the youngster will be hoping that his dream does come true and that he scores for Scotland in their Under-19 friendly against Switzerland.

The call-up for the match at Livingston’s Energy Assets Arena (kick-off 2pm) was a first for the young Easter Road striker, capping a remarkable few months as he’s gone from boys’ club football with Hutchison Vale to becoming a regular member of Terry Butcher’s first team squad.

Cummings, who was working as a gardener last summer, said: “It was a big surprise, but a good one for me. It’s the first time I’ve been involved at any level in international football – in fact, I think the last time I played representative football was for Edinburgh Schools when I was in Primary Seven.

“But when our coach James McDonaugh phoned to tell me I was in the squad I was over the moon. It’s was a very proud moment for me and my family, but hopefully it will get even better by getting to play a part in tomorrow’s match.”

Cummings agreed his route to international recognition was somewhat different to his new Scotland team-mates, most of whom have been with their clubs for years while he’s had to rebuild his career after being released by Hearts following a knee injury which required three operations, returning to play “for fun” with Hutchie where he made everyone sit up and take notice as he racked up a barrowload of goals.

Hibs beat off the approaches from other clubs – including their Capital rivals – signing him at the beginning of August and by the end of that month the former Tynecastle High School pupil found himself sitting on the bench as Hibs, then under Pat Fenlon, defeated Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

However, Cummings had to wait until the beginning of November for his debut, coming off the bench as Hibs went down to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, coincidentally on the day Butcher was sitting high in the main stand at Easter Road contemplating a switch from the Highlands to Edinburgh.

Since then the striker has become a fixture in the first team squad while continuing to notch up the goals at a rapid rate for Hibs’ Under-20 side, more than 30 shared between the SPFL League and the East of Scotland League, although he’s yet to get off the mark for the first team in his nine appearances, five of them in the starting line-up.

The 18-year-old said: “Having been in boys’ club football last season I could never have imagined playing in the Scottish Premiership, never mind being called up by Scotland. It’s been a fantastic few months for me, absolutely brilliant, but hopefully this is just the start and I can go on to establish myself in the Hibs team and move up the age levels for Scotland as my career progresses.”

Cummings has already met his Scotland team-mates at a two-day training camp last month and, he admits, he turned up feeling a trifle nervous. He said: “It’s all very new to me and most of the other guys have been at their respective clubs for a long, long time. I felt a bit like the new boy, a wee bit nervous, but everyone made me very welcome. I’ve got to know a few of them in any case from Under-20 football and, I suppose, we were all pretty much in the same boat.”

The fact tomorrow’s match is taking place at a ground where Hibs Under-20 side play their “home” matches will, Cummings believes, help him no end. The 18-year-old joked: “It’s my playground, that’s where I score my goals, so hopefully I can get on, or even start and get one for Scotland.

“I’ve lots of good memories of playing there, which can only help my confidence. It’s all the wee things like knowing the home dressing-room, what boots to wear and, of course, where the goals are.”

And that is where Scotland, Spain and 1982 – long before Cummings was born – come into play. He said: “Every night before I play, no matter what sort of game it is, I dream of scoring, the last-minute winner, the hat-tricks. I visualise myself scoring goals, the ball rippling the net. It’s a bit like the old song “I Have a Dream” when the guy steps up to take the penalty for Scotland.”

While he’s already undergone an intense footballing education over the past seven months, Cummings recognises tomorrow’s match represents a further learning opportunity. He said: “I haven’t played against foreign opposition before so, again, that’s all going to be new to me.

“But you have to watch and learn, look at how they play, how they set-up, the game plan their coaches have decided upon and so on. At my age it’s all about taking it in and making the best use of the whole experience, not just the game itself but the time we’ve been together since Sunday preparing for it, in your own career.”

Looking further ahead, Cummings, naturally, has hopes that he’ll impress coach Ricky Sbragia even further if given the chance, the prize being a place in the squad for the elite stage of the Under-19 European Championships, the young Scots qualifying group being hosted by England at the end of May with Ukraine and Montenegro their other opponents.

He said: “Fingers crossed I get a chance and do well tomorrow. It would be great to be involved in what will be a tough qualifying competition, particularly with the chance to play against England. But to do that I have to keep doing well at Easter Road, to keep myself in the gaffer’s plans and, hopefully, at some point between now and the end of the season get among the goals for Hibs.”