Just as his remarkable scoring record against Rangers does not guarantee Jason Cummings a place in Hibs’ starting line-up at Hampden tomorrow, neither will his perceived indiscretion of having a weekend kickabout in his socks at Saughton Enclosure have a negative influence on the decision Alan Stubbs will make about his top scorer.
The photographs of a carefree Cummings larking around with his mates on the Saughton astroturf during time off given to the Hibs squad by Stubbs in the wake of their agonising Premiership play-off semi-final defeat last Friday might have been regarded in a disapproving light by some managers.
But Stubbs is completely relaxed about the 20-year-old striker’s choice of R&R, albeit while admitting he might have taken a different view had Cummings sustained an injury in the process.
As it is, Stubbs is happy to regard it as another example of Cummings’ free spirit and individuality, sitting alongside his failed attempt to chip home a penalty kick in “Panenka” style during last month’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United.
“As long as he didn’t get injured, I’m not bothered,” said Stubbs. “He’s got pals and I’m sure he was sensible with it. I’m sure it’s being made into more than it actually was.
“If I could still have a kickaround with my pals, I would do, but unfortunately I’m not in a position to do so.
“He is still a young boy. He is certainly growing up and one picture can sometimes paint a completely different picture.
“We have to be careful that we don’t lambast someone because he is enthusiastic, because he is a confident boy.
“Yes, you have to manage it. But in terms of Jason, I’ve got no problem. If he’d been injured, it would be a different story.
“He does things off the cuff and I would agree there is a lack of individuals like Jason in the game now. Sometimes it’s down to coaches at a lower level not being able to handle a bit of character and personality.
“They want everyone to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ and walk in a straight line. If someone comes off a straight line, they are not happy about it. They don’t want them to make a mistake, they want them to get it right all the time – which is impossible.
“I’d be surprised if Jason did a Panenka again with a penalty, for example. It’s all part of learning. You have to be able to make a mistake to learn from it. It was one of those moments where people either applaud you or say ‘What an idiot’.
“He was brave enough to do it, that’s the confidence of him. We had a quiet word afterwards. All I said was that there is a time and a place for everything and I don’t think 0-0 in a semi-final is either the time or the place.
“Players have to be able to make mistakes, they have to be able to try things. Sometimes people don’t like it, they see it as a negative. I certainly don’t. If Jason kept doing the wrong thing all the time, then that’s maybe the time to have a word. But if he does it wrong ten times then gets it right once, for me that’s success.
“One thing which is not in question is his ability to score goals. All strikers, more often than not, have to be different because they have to be selfish at times. Other players are more of a team player.
“Strikers have to have that selfishness that, when they are in that penalty area, they look at themselves more than their team-mates.”
Cummings’ approach has bagged him 25 goals in a season when he has also maintained his exceptional strike rate against Rangers. But despite scoring eight times in ten appearances against the Ibrox club so far in his career, he could still miss out to James Keatings for a place in the Hibs starting 11 for tomorrow’s Hampden showdown against them.
“Jason’s record against Rangers certainly doesn’t do him any harm but it won’t be the be-all and end-all in terms of my decision,” added Stubbs.
“I want players who are going into the game in form. Jason got left out last Friday night at Falkirk, it was just a call I went with. The fact ‘Keats’ scored twice has done him no harm whatsoever.
“Was it justified or not? Other people can decide that but on the day I felt it was the right decision.
“There are one or two decisions to be made before I pick the team for Saturday. I’m more or less clear in my mind with the majority of positions. One or two are still up for discussion, only because of their performances.
“So it’s a good thing, it’s not because players are not performing. It’s just because I’m thinking of what’s best on the day.”