Hibs defender Darren McGregor has insisted team-mate Jason Cummings deserves his chance of a big-money move – but admitted everyone at Easter Road will be disappointed to see him leave.
Nottingham Forest are on the verge of signing the 21-year-old, top scorer for Hibs in each of the past three seasons, with the Capital club set to pick up a seven-figure sum for the striker who only four years ago was working as a gardener.
Adamant he knew nothing more than he’d read in the papers about the Scotland Under-21 hitman’s move to the English Championship, the defender said: “I’m delighted for him.
“I know as much as you guys, the whisperings. I haven’t heard anything from Jason but you look at the papers and obviously it’s going in that direction. If that is the case, fair play to him.
“After us being relegated he has scored 20-plus goals in each of the last three seasons. You could say if it wasn’t for his goals last season we might not have got up so Hibs fans have a lot to thank him for.”
Speaking at the launch of next season’s home and away kits which will again carry the name of MarathonBet on the front of the shirts – their sponsorship deal extending by another two years to five – McGregor claimed it was certain Cummings would move on sooner or later.
He said: “That’s the story in Scottish football. You have a young talented player who is doing well. Inevitably – even if he was at Celtic and doing well – here would be clubs sniffing around. I think most clubs in Scotland are selling clubs.
“I wish him all the best. He is going to play in a very tough league in the Championship and fair play to him he will get and fair play to him he will get sorted out financially.
“If he stays, it’s a win-win for us; we have of one of best goalscorers in the country and we will have him for another year.”
Cummings, of course, is known as the joker in boss Neil Lennon’s dressing-room but, revealed McGregor, he’s serious about his football while admitting his team-mate still has much to learn.
He said: “Everyone knows him and what he is like but, if you catch him on his own, he is a nice lad, a young lad in terms of he’s only 21.
“I don’t know what I would have been like at that age playing with Hibs and being the main man. He likes a laugh but he is a hard worker and he has proved that over three seasons, not just scoring in the Championship but in big games in the Scottish Cup against big opposition. If it happens, fair play to him. If it doesn’t, we win either way.”
McGregor conceded it will be difficult for Lennon to find someone to fill Cummings’ shooting boots but believes new signing Simon Murray can go some way to doing that.
The 31-year-old said: “He’ll be hard to replace but sometimes you can put money into big-name signings but it doesn’t always work.
“You could argue that sometimes Jason doesn’t give you a lot if he is not scoring goals – and he would probably be the first to admit that. But the fact is he scores goals and it is very hard to find a player who scores goals consistently as he has done.
“It will be difficult but I believe if it does happen we will be rewarded financially.”
Lennon moved quickly to snap up Murray, son of former Hibs striker Gary, after Dundee United failed to seal a return to the Championship and McGregor believes that, having played against him, the new arrival can make his mark at Easter Road.
He said: “Simon scored a lot for Dundee United. He will have aspirations to come here and be the main man. Having played against him, he works very hard, he’s quick and doesn’t give you a second on the ball.
“United are a good club but, if he does step up to the mark, he will get his rewards, so the incentive is there for him.
“Simon has been something of a late developer. I hadn’t really heard of him until the last couple of seasons but good luck to him if he has worked on his craft.
“If he comes here with his energy he will help the team. I am looking forward to playing with him and hopefully he proves to be a good addition to the squad.”
Hibs also announced that in addition to MarathonBet remaining as their main sponsor on their new Macron kit, St Andrews-based gin distiller Eden Mill have become “an official partner” of the club, agreeing a one-year deal which will feature their name on the back of the jersey.