Reader, I have failed you. I wanted to bring you words with Jason Cummings – a big sit-down chat about his life’s work – and I really tried to get them. Shrewsbury Town emailed back: “Sorry, but he’s not doing interviews right now. He wants to keep his head down.”
I should say this was before recent events. I’m not one of these latecomers to the party, only learning now about the man’s great gifts. And like you, who also knows about these gifts, my first reaction to this rebuff was to fall off my chair, laugh uncontrollably and eat beans. Or at least I would have done if I could have opened the tin, but I do not possess a left foot which can perform this function. (You’ll remember his very first post-match interview, our introduction to Jason’s World, in which he explained the effortless ingenuity involved in a sizzling strike for Hibernian).
Cummings keeping his head down? When has this ever happened? Only if he was facing grave charges might he opt for a low profile. Only if he’d been bound and gagged and bundled into the back of a Krispy Kreme van. Only if he’d been loaned out to a club on the reduced planet of Pluto.
Shrewsbury isn’t too remote for him to re-launch his career as the most ebullient, most mad-as-a-bottle-of-crisps and least-likely-to-keep-his-head-down footballer there has ever been.
We’ll get to his heroics against Liverpool and how he saved the FA Cup in a moment, but first let the records show that a couple of days after me being told Cummings had entered a shy and retiring phase, he popped up in the background on Sky Sports as one of his Town team-mates did a piece-to-camera looking forward to the game against Jurgen Klopp’s champions of the world. The thing about these live broadcasts from club training grounds is that the poor sap being interviewed has to trust in the value of what he’s wittering about and keep looking straight ahead in the hope he won’t be jumped from behind and thwacked with a purple dildo, as once happened to a reporter on transfer deadline day. On this occasion Jason merely performed a silly dance so the interviewee got off lightly. Hang on, did I say Jason was naked?
From this reticent behaviour – shy as an owl, shy as a sloth, shy as a wolf – Cummings was next glimpsed on the Shrewsbury bench as Liverpool appeared to be coasting into the fifth round. Suddenly he was on the pitch. Suddenly he was taking a penalty. Would he Panenka it, like he once did for Hibs, only to hoist the ball over the bar? No, right in the corner, goal. Then a few minutes later a goalie’s kick-out, a bounce off a head, a rusty Liverpool millionaire defender steps in to clear and Cummings nicks the ball past him – with the touch of an angel, I might have said, if he hadn’t already used this line when stunning Ibrox as a Hibee – and thrashes home the equaliser.
This was with the right foot. If his left opens tins of beans, what can his right do? Paint like an old master? Untangle very thin jewellery chains scrunched up in a hopeless knot? Commune with the spirit world? None of us who know Jason and love his blethers in front of the sponsors’ be-stickered chipboard could wait for him to tell us in what would be his Match of the Day debut. We didn’t find out – some things should remain a mystery, even for the least mysterious man in football – but he was still good value by bantering with pundit Ian Wright before donning an inflatable gold crown. Natural finisher, natural comedian, natural bampot – oh how we miss him in Scottish football.
But right now he has valuable missionary-cum-PR work to perform in England.
As a winner of the Scottish Cup, the oldest association football trophy in the world, he is currently reminding our southern cousins that their slightly inferior competition can still produce fun, thrills and romance.
On Tuesday, Shrewsbury head to Anfield for the replay. Though it will be only Liverpool’s kids this time, with no chance of Mo Salah coming on to rescue the tie as the big team will be away on a winter break, Cummings may well bid farewell to the FA Cup.
But don’t write him or them off. Stranger things have happened, as they did for Hibs in 2016.