Jason Cummings’ scoring stats currently compare favourably with the best of his recent predecessors in the Hibs attack.
In Saturday’s Championship match at Queen of the South, he will attempt to emulate Leigh Griffiths’ feat from late 2012 of scoring in six consecutive matches.
At 19 years and six months old, he has already notched 14 goals in the Easter Road first team. To put that in perspective, Steven Fletcher had 17 by the same age, while Garry O’Connor had 16. Kenny Miller had one and Derek Riordan, Hibs’ tenth-highest post-war goal-scorer, had none.
All of the aforementioned went on to more illustrious pastures and were capped by Scotland. While it is still early days for Cummings, and it must be acknowledged that 11 of his goals have come in Scotland’s second tier, no modern-day Hibs player has scored as prolifically as Cummings has at this stage in their development and not gone on to have a good career. Pat Nevin, the Hibs-supporting player turned pundit, believes it is his natural striker’s intuition which has helped him top the Championship scoring charts.
“The thing that will stand Jason in good stead is having the movement to get in between defenders – he’s been brilliant at that,” Nevin said. “I feel you have to learn most things in football, but getting into positions to score goals is probably more of an innate, natural thing. I remember talking to John Aldridge, a world-class striker, about it and I asked him how he did it.
“I was OK at scoring when I got the ball in front of goal, but getting into that position was really hard. He just told me to go wherever the defenders aren’t and I ended up scoring the most goals I’d ever scored that season. I was 30 years old then and I had to be told that, whereas the natural goal-scorers like Jason are waltzing in there at 19 and banging them in. In a way, you don’t want him to think about things too much because he’s probably more effective when he plays off the cuff.
“I’m really impressed with his attitude. He’s got good pace, he’s a natural goal-scorer and he’s clearly not lacking in confidence, which is a big thing. He’s got that bit of devilment about him. He’s not afraid to get stuck in and he doesn’t hide it when he’s happy – as he’s shown a couple of times recently after his goals. He’s looking absolutely superb at the moment. It does help, of course, when you’ve got players like Scott Allan providing quality delivery into the area, but the key thing is that Jason is making the right movements and understanding that he’s got a bit of quality around him that’s going to find him.”
While Cummings will be hoping to maintain his hot streak in Dumfries, Nevin believes the young forward has enough attributes to ensure that even when he is not scoring he is still an important player for Hibs. “The goals will come and go for Jason,” he said. “Unless you’re Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, you’re not going to score every week.
“That’s not a concern for Jason because even when he’s not scoring goals, he’s still bringing something to the team. He’s not someone you simply rely on for goals. When you’ve got somebody like Jason working his socks off, running the channels, pulling defenders around and opening up space for others, it’s not imperative that he’s scoring goals every week.”
Two years ago, Cummings was playing Boys Club football for Hutchison Vale after being ditched by Hearts. He signed for Hibs in summer 2013 and wasted no time in making an impression in James McDonaugh’s under-20s team. His prolific scoring form in the Development League saw him fast-tracked into the first-team picture and he was handed his debut by caretaker manager Jimmy Nicholl as a second-half substitute in a home defeat by Inverness 14 months ago.
Terry Butcher took a shine to him and played him regularly in a team that was in freefall in the closing months of last season, but it was only in the penultimate game of the campaign – the first leg of the play-off final against Hamilton Accies – that he finally broke his duck with an expertly-taken double.
After being linked with a move to Swansea City last summer, he has taken his game to new heights this season. “It’s not a surprise that he’s scoring goals because he’s always been a really good goal-scorer,” said Ryan Baptie, who played in the same under-20s team as Cummings last season. “He was really good for the 20s last year. All the local boys of our age-group knew of him when he was at Hutchie and at Hearts, and when he came in to Hibs he just hit the ground running.
“He was a real stand-out for us. Every game, you felt he would score. He can score any sort of goal. He can get a goal out of nothing or just be in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net. There was a game against Hamilton last season that sticks in mind where, out of absolutely nothing, a cross came into the box and he just overhead-kicked it into the top corner.
“He’s a brilliant character to have in the dressing-room, a really funny guy. Anything where he can do well and get attention, he’ll do it. Nothing fazes him. He’s the kind of person that was always going to relish going into the first team and he’s taken his chance by the scruff of the neck.”
Head coach Alan Stubbs has started with Cummings in every single match since the 2-0 League Cup win at Ross County in September. While encouraged by the way the youngster has flourished over the course of the campaign, Stubbs believes there is still plenty room for improvement.
“We’re working with him all the time because he’s still got a lot of work to do,” said Stubbs. “His overall game needs improving and we’re working on certain aspects that need tidied up. The one thing he can certainly do at the moment is get into good positions and score goals, and that’s a great thing for any striker.
“Strikers judge themselves on goals, and he’s obviously in a good run of form on that front, but the most important thing for me is that he’s contributing to the team.”
As Jason Cummings bids to score for a sixth consecutive match this weekend, here are some other notable scoring streaks from Hibs players:
• Joe Baker scored in ten consecutive games in 1959/60. He also netted in six successive matches in the same season.
• Ally MacLeod scored in nine consecutive games in 1977/78.
• Gordon Smith scored in seven consecutive matches in 1944/45 and six successive games in 1942/43 as HIbs competed in the Scottish Southern League during the Second World War.
• Leigh Griffiths scored in six consecutive games in the first half of the 2012/13 season and five straight games in the second half of that season.
• Anthony Stokes scored in five consecutive games in 2009/10.
• Garry O O’Connor scored in five consecutive games in 2001/02.
• Alan Gordon, pictured, scored in five consecutive games in 1972/73.
• Jimmy O’Rourke scored in five consecutive games in 1973/74.