Tam McManus reckons watching Jason Cummings is like looking in a mirror after recalling his own tantrums and goal droughts.
The striker is enduring a rare dry spell for Hibernian, failing to find the net in his last four matches and cutting an increasingly frustrated figure in attack. He was on the end of some tough love following the Hibees’ 0-0 draw against Queen of the South last month, with boss Neil Lennon stating “if he isn’t scoring goals, then he isn’t bringing much to the team at the minute”. In the following match, a 1-1 draw against Dundee United, he was hooked after 77 minutes.
McManus is well placed to weigh up Cummings’ progress, having combined his own irrepressible personality with being Hibs’ great young hope after emerging in the early 2000s.
“I absolutely see some of myself in him,” said McManus. “I look at some of the stuff Jason does and I think ‘that just reminds me of me’. I used to fall out with the world when I was younger!
“I saw when Jason came off against Dundee United that he was unhappy and I used to do that. I’d throw water bottles about and everything. I remember Bobby Williamson took me off in one game and I had the same reaction – kicking stuff about and complaining.
“When you are young you have your ego. You want to stay on the pitch, you want to get the winning goal and get the headlines. Jason has done that plenty of times over the last couple of years. I fully expect him to score at least 20 goals in this league.”
McManus has no problem with the demanding standards Lennon is setting for Cummings, insisting Lennon’s experience of coaching a host of gifted frontmen, ranging from raw Gary Hooper to a veteran Emile Heskey, will prove invaluable.
He says the club’s decision to reject a £1.7 million bid from Peterborough for the player in August says everything. “Neil Lennon has experience at the highest level,” continued McManus. “At the start of the season, Neil’s comments about Jason were great and will have filled him with confidence.”
McManus expects Hibs to shake off their recent malaise and claim the Championship title. “It hasn’t been as easy as I thought, because after winning the first five games I thought they would have it won by Christmas,” said McManus, speaking at Hibs’ annual golf day. “However, I still expect them to win the league.”