Cometh the hour, cometh Jason Cummings: How ex-Scotland, Hibs and Rangers striker turned tables spectacularly with World Cup call

What a difference a year has made in the life of Jason Cummings.

Jason Cummings has been in excellent form for Central Coast Mariners.
Jason Cummings has been in excellent form for Central Coast Mariners.

This time in 2021, the striker had just played 19 minutes as a second-half substitute for Dundee against Celtic. Chained to the bench and watching his struggling team-mates falter in the cinch Premiership, Cummings was at a low ebb. He could not force his way into James McPake’s starting XI and had been told he could leave Tayside. Sporadic moments of success at Dens Park, and before that Shrewsbury Town, where he famously scored against Liverpool, were lost in long periods of mediocracy. His career was heading down the way.

Fair play to Cummings though, as he made sure it headed down under, where his fortunes have taken a serious upturn. At the age of 27, he took the decision in January to go as far away from home as possible and sign for Central Coast Mariners, a middle-of-the-road A-League team. He scored on his debut against Sydney FC and has not looked back since. He will be at the World Cup later this month after making manager Graham Arnold’s 26-man cut.

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Cummings’ statistics for Mariners are impressive. He’s played 25 times, scored 12 goals and laid on eight assists. Not since his spell at Hibs, between 2015 and 2017, has he been that prolific. Once one of the most accomplished finishers in Scottish football and a character to boot, he is now hitting his best form. He has been on the radar of the Socceroos since 2019 due to his mother holding dual UK-Australian citizenship but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his defection. Capped twice for Scotland, but only in friendlies, Cummings was able to switch allegiances in the summer and made his debut in September against New Zealand, scoring in his second appearance.

Cummings made his debut for Australia in September.

The Edinburgh-born player moved over with his partner Hannah – sister to current Verona defender Josh Doig – and if you follow his social media account, you will see a man settling into life swimmingly in Australia. He still has that cheeky bravado – he would not be Jason Cummings if he didn’t – but he has matured on the pitch. At Mariners, he is not just a goalscorer; he has added creativity to his game. He has dovetailed nicely with Australia’s current wonderkid Garang Kuol, who at just 18 is also going to the World Cup and will sign for Newcastle United in the English Premier League in January. Mariners are having one of their best seasons in their history and Cummings is playing such an integral part.

All of this has led to the glory of being picked for the World Cup. Cynics will point out that this is not a vintage Australian squad, but it is clearly a group greater than the sum of its parts. They made it to Qatar via the hardest of routes, beating Peru on penalties in a play-off. There are no superstars, and seven Scottish-based players are included. He has another Scot in his former Hibs team-mate Martin Boyle to keep him company, assuming the latter beats a knee injury. That dressing-room should be lively.

Given where Cummings was a year ago, his rise has to be saluted. Scottish football fans are sure to keep an eye on him as he takes on France, Denmark and Tunisia. Just no panenkas, Jason ...

Cummings has been capped twice for Scotland in friendlies.