What next for ex-Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty and Jason Cummings - returns to Hearts and Hibs?
As players and personalities they have largely been fan favourites and popular among dressing rooms at most clubs they have turned out for. Yet, both are free to find a new team. A new home.
Lafferty has been released halfway through his two-year deal at Rangers, while Cummings has been told he can find a new club despite having a year remaining on his contract at Nottingham Forest.
Their talent at times has been in a tense battle with what could be deemed a tendency to self destruct. At the very least they have been guilty of letting their focus slip through off-field distractions. In football, perception can be as dangerous as the truth.
Both have hit the front pages or been, at one time or another, tabloid cannon fodder. From smashing up a flat to a Snapchat scandal, from wrestling Grado to being branded a womaniser.
In a frank interview, Lafferty attributed his Rangers downfall to his lack of intensity in training.
“I will be the first to hold my hand up and admit I’m not the best trainer,” he said. “My performances in training and in games are night and day. The manager has judged me in training and clearly that’s prevented me getting more games.”
In an age when football can be seen as sanitised, too serious, too professional, these players bring rascality. Keep it light-hearted, keep it fun. Add in more than 100 goals between them and they should not be without suitors
Lafferty has revealed that he sees his future in the Scottish Premiership and Cummings’ best goalscoring years have been north of the Border, with Hibernian.
When two such strikers become available they are naturally linked with returns to teams with whom they have had success.
Lafferty said yesterday that his “ideal move would be to go back to Hearts” for whom he scored 20 goals between July 2017 and August 2018.
Intriguingly, Cummings has also been linked with Hearts, the club he played for as a youth before being released. However, with Steven Naismith now signed and a glut of attacking options, it is believed there is no interest in either player from Tynecastle.
Hibs fans would like to see their club sign another striker to complement what they already have, namely Florian Kamberi and Christian Doidge.
Prior to joining Hearts, Lafferty was courted by Hibs, but Cummings would be a more natural fit after excelling at Easter Road. He scored more than 70 goals in four seasons at the club, and helped them to Scottish Cup glory in 2016 and promotion back to the Premiership a year later.
Cummings’ scoring record in the top flight is sketchy with only two league goals – scored while on loan at Rangers. But during his time at Hibs he scored regularly against top-flight opposition in cup ties as well as being a regular thorn in the side of Hearts and Rangers when they were in the Championship.
Like Hearts, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interest from Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom in adding to his forward line, even if an injury to either Kamberi or Doidge could leave him short. So the pair may have to take a step down in terms of stature of club.
They are at different stages in their careers. Lafferty, while having plenty to offer, will be 32 before September is out and may be tempted by a lucrative move abroad, having prospered before in Italy and Switzerland. Cummings, having just turned 24, requires direction after a bruising experience in England where he managed only one league goal for Forest.
Almost every team in the Premiership is on the hunt for a striker, even more so when they are proven in Scottish football.
A path well-travelled in recent years, Rugby Park to Ibrox or vice versa, or a switch to Fir Park, should be of interest to Lafferty, with both Kilmarnock and Motherwell potentially requiring a focal point in attack.
As for Cummings, it is a surprise St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright has not re-ignited his interest. He has had success in giving players, whose careers have veered off track, a path to bring out the best in their talents.
The next four weeks will be important for the duo, and the more that certain teams struggle in front of goal the more their enigmatic talents will be lauded.