The Hibs manager added he would have met the striker anywhere, including Timbuktu, if it meant tying him down on a new long-term contract. Lennon was adamant yesterday that Cummings’ career will be best-served by staying at Hibs for the time being.
He made it clear he was not being disrespectful to Peterborough, the club who last week tabled a reported £1.2 million offer for the player. Hibs dismissed this approach out of hand and Cummings underlined his importance to the side the very next day when scoring twice in the 2-1 opening-day league win over Falkirk.
Lennon later said it would take a ridiculous offer – “£5 million, that silly”, he added – to prise Cummings, who recently signed a new four-year contract, from Easter Road.
“At this stage of his career he’s still learning,” said Lennon yesterday. “The environment that he’s familiar with suits him. We’re a big club and a big city club. It suits his personality. He knows the surroundings very well. I don’t think he should be in a rush to go and we’re all in agreement on that.”
The Hibs manager worked hard over the summer to convince Cummings to stay at the club after noting the player was “in the mindset to go”. Lennon invited the striker to meet him in Paris, where he was working as a pundit during Euro 2016 and Cummings had gone on holiday.
“I would have made time [to meet him] no matter where I was,” he said, when asked if the meeting in France is what convinced Cummings to stay and work with Lennon. “That was my priority. His agent had talked to me about his mindset but I’d said we had to sit down and talk things through. Whether that was in France, Ireland or Timbuktu, I’d have got my point across to him eventually. Thankfully they were receptive to it.”
Lennon admitted his case was helped by the variety of big name stars he recruited to whisper some encouragement in Cummings’ ear.
“The caveat to the whole thing was getting these guys to speak to him – I’d pre-empted it all by speaking to them in advance! I’m not sure how much that swayed him. It was a big decision for him to make and we feel he’s made the right one. I got 15 of them to speak! There was Alan Shearer, Rio Ferdinand, Martin Keown – who you don’t want to get on the wrong side of – Chris Waddle, Dean Saunders. They didn’t talk about Hibs. It was about football in general and he really enjoyed himself. I spoke to him the next day, before he flew back, and told him to work with us for a while.”
If Cummings is absent from the squad tonight then Hibs fans should not necessarily be concerned that Hibs’ strong desire to keep the star striker has melted in the face of a renewed offer from elsewhere. Lennon admitted he was considering making changes ahead of their home Betfred Cup second-round clash with Queen of the South, one of their Championship rivals.
“I may make some changes but they won’t be wholesale,” he said. “I want to respect the competition and try to get to the final again.”
Hibs are looking to reach a third successive major final. This would be a significant achievement for a second-tier club. While Lennon left no one in any doubt where his priorities lie, he stressed Hibs will be doing all they can to once more excel in the knockout competitions.
“They made two cup finals last year and won one and were unlucky not to win the other,” he said. “They have shown they can compete against the best teams in the country. However, getting out of the division is the main focal point. But I am quite happy to have cup runs as well – if we can.
“If we are going to do that then I will need to add to the squad,” he added. “If we are going to do that we will need to get some strength in depth. But the priority is the league. If the cup runs are good ones then so be it. I am not putting all my eggs in the one basket in terms of the league but certainly we are concentrating more on that than the other competitions.”
Lennon admitted they were not any further ahead in terms of recruiting new players, since Saturday’s opening league game “took precedence”.
Hibs are waiting for an answer from Celtic to their request to take Liam Henderson back on loan while new goalkeeper Ofir Marciano’s loan move to the club from FC Ashdod should be rubber stamped in a matter of days when his work permit is processed.