While safely away on Scotland duty is perhaps the best time to contradict your manager. It also helps if you are one of Britain’s in-form strikers.
Despite Alan Stubbs’ recent wry contention that he wasn’t prepared to hand Derek Riordan any of the credit, Jason Cummings has praised the former Hibs striker for helping inspire his current streak of goals in each of his last seven games.
Riordan had been training with Hibs in recent weeks while he attempts to get his own career back on track. He has been paying particular attention to Cummings, whose fine goal on-the-turn against Rangers recently conjured up memories of Riordan at his peak.
Speaking after that strike, Stubbs, when asked to gauge the extent of Riordan’s influence on Cummings, sounded amused: “Derek’s just been in training and by joining in shooting practice… but he’s not getting the credit for that!”
But Cummings, who is preparing for Scotland’s vital Under-21 European Championship qualifying fixture with Ukraine on Friday, yesterday praised Riordan. He maintains that the striker, who scored over 100 goals in two spells at Hibs, has had a significant input in his own hot streak. Cummings has now scored 13 goals in 18 appearances this season.
Still only 32, Riordan is surely still too young to be cast only as a mentor. Nevertheless, while keeping himself fit with Hibs in the hope of finding a club with which to re-ignite his career, Riordan has been passing on tips to his young apprentice, who is clearly proving receptive.
“He’s been there for the last few months and I’ve learned a lot from him,” said Cummings. “I’ve just been watching him in training and he’s been different class in telling me a lot of things in terms of working on my game and finishing. I think that’s probably why I’ve been in this good spell. Since he’s been in I’ve scored in every game so I’ve learned a lot from him.
“Deeks was different class,” he added. “The other night I typed his name into YouTube and watched some of his goals. Some of his goals were just unbelievable back in the day.
“He is the same now and he still sticks the ball in the top corner at finishing drills. It is a joy to watch Deeks and learn from him.”
Perhaps Stubbs’ reluctance to credit Riordan is connected to the player’s reputation as a hell-raiser. There are some things he definitely won’t want Riordan to pass on to his young prodigy, who, it has been said, needs little excuse to explore his wilder side.
Stubbs might be concerned Riordan is influencing Cummings in terms of off-the-field behaviour as well. But then perhaps he is the ideal person to pass on advice about what-not-to-do. There are those who contend that Riordan failed to make the most of himself. Cummings, however, disagrees.
“Deeks has given me a few pointers on different things away from football,” he said. “He has helped me a lot. He has had a great career and played at the top. He got his move to Celtic and he was different class at Hibs. He was an unbelievable player and it is a pleasure to train with him and learn from him.”
After seven goals in seven successive games for Hibs, Cummings is hot on the heels of Jamie Vardy, who has earned headlines after scoring in nine successive Premier League games for Leicester City. “He has set a decent target,” said Cummings.
The 20 year-old striker is now keen to make it eight goalscoring games in a row on Friday, even if it won’t alter his club record, which he next has the chance to improve against Livingston next midweek.
Cummings knows he can do himself a lot of good over the next few days in front of the watching Gordon Strachan, who is operating on the sidelines with the Scotland under-21 side in order to monitor the talent coming through.
He can hardly avoid noticing Cummings, with his sweep of peroxide hair and, considering the way things are going for him at the moment, understandable swagger.
Perhaps surprisingly, Cummings has yet to open his account for the under 21s – but he expects this to change on Friday. “With the way I’m feeling now I’m going into every game knowing I’m going to score which is a good feeling,” he said. Looking further ahead, he is relishing an ongoing battle with Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn, who has scored 14 league goals to Cummings’ total of nine, to finish top scorer in the Championship.
Not that Cummings is impressed by what’s on offer for whoever emerges on top. “I won the top goalscorer in the Championship last season and I didn’t even get a Golden Boot or anything,” he said. “So there is no real point in winning it, is there!?”