Jason Cummings is rarely shy about coming forward. While other strikers might dismiss the very idea of setting targets, it is no surprise to hear him challenge himself to better last season’s total of 25 goals.
It will be remarkable if he manages to even equal that impressive haul. But, he is back on the right track, ably abetted by new foil Chris Humphrey.
Friday night’s double in Hibs’ 3-0 win over title challengers Dundee United took Cummings to 12 goals in a season that has been interrupted by spells out of the first team.
Being dropped on occasion by manager Neil Lennon has not affected the player’s confidence. Given the circumstances, he is happy with the haul of a dozen goals so far but is not resting on his laurels.
“That is a decent return and I have not started as many games as I would have liked,” he said. “I will just keep plugging away as every game I look to score as many as I can. I want to try and beat my record from last season.”
Surprisingly, he was not entirely sure what number this was. Informed it was 25, he vowed to beat it. Which is exactly what you would expect the confident Cummings to say, particularly in view of the support he now has at his disposal.
This time last season Anthony Stokes was set to arrive on loan at Hibs from Celtic. While no one could claim this was not a success given he scored twice against Rangers to help Hibs lift the Scottish Cup, his partnership with Cummings did not gel as well as was expected.
Cummings, who had scored 17 times before Stokes’ arrival, struck only another eight times afterwards.
Now the striker is hoping the arrival of Humphrey, who set up both goals for Cummings on his debut against United, can inspire him to have a more productive tail-end of the season this time.
“He was different class,” said Cummings of Humphrey. “I didn’t know what he was like as a player. I knew he was fast, but he surprised me how good he was.
“We have made a good wee connection and he set me up twice for my two goals. The delivery for the second goal is every striker’s dream – playing with two wingers like Humphrey and (Martin) Boyle is a striker’s dream.”
January seemed set to prove significant for Cummings because of the expectation that Hibs’ resolve would be tested by bids for the player. With speculation now not so rife, it is now the month when Cummings wants to continue re-establishing himself in the first-team picture after failing to score throughout October and November.
“I wasn’t playing when I wasn’t scoring so that kind of makes sense, eh,” he shrugged. Although this isn’t strictly true – he made a run of nine appearances without scoring – he did come off the bench for four of them. But now, with four goals from his last four appearances, he appears firmly back in the groove.
Who wouldn’t relish being back involved when a winger like Humphrey is providing assists from one side, the equally pacey Boyle on the other?
“I am back in the team and I base my game on scoring goals,” he said. “When you have players around you that give you service like that then it makes my job easy.”
Commons, pictured, is another of those players helping Cummings return to scoring form. As it stands, the on-loan Celtic midfielder has only one game left with Hibs – this Saturday’s trip to Dumbarton. Cummings described Commons’ influence on him as “massive”. There is hope a deal might be still be struck to keep Commons until the end of the season, at least.
“Kris is a great player and everybody can see with his technique that he is way above the level he is playing at,” said Cummings.
“He has helped me massively since he came in. It is an absolute joy to play with him as he can see things that most other players can’t and I am learning a lot from him.”
There is further cause for optimism in the return from injury of John McGinn, whose drive from midfield means he can be relied on to create chances as well as score himself, as he proved with Hibs’ third on Friday night.
“The Meatball came on and it turned into the John McGinn show,” said Cummings. “I don’t know how he sneaked that goal past the ’keeper. I was delighted for him as he has had a hard time of it with injury over the last few weeks and it is a fitting reward for him. He has come in and got his goal and he has done well.
“John is a massive player for Hibs and he gets the supporters going which helps us as well. He is a key player for us.
“John and myself have built up a good bond on and off the pitch,” Cummings added. “He knows my runs and I enjoy playing alongside him.”