Sensible, smart and serious about his work are three terms never applied to Jason Cummings. The Hibernian striker’s pal and paragon of professionalism, John McGinn, would elicit such recommendations. When it comes to the seeing past the brash eccentricities of the Easter Road side’s 24-goal plunderer, then, McGinn, inset right, feels that his opinion carries weight.
“Everyone asks me if Jason is arrogant. All the time, everywhere I go, they’ll ask me what he’s actually like,” the midfielder said. “I need to tell them that he’s a brilliant boy. He’s one of my best pals now and I wouldn’t hang about with an idiot.”
The endearingly crackpot side of Cummings means that he might be guilty of doing, or saying, the odd idiotic thing, mind. Into that bracket would have to come his dinked penalty that could have cost Hibernian victory in their Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United… which fate decreed was settled by as shoot-out conversion from an unabashed Cummings.
The 22-year-old even managed to smile about the situation as he stepped up to take the crucial kick at Hampden which told of an effervescence that makes it hard not to warm to him. Patently, McGinn has discovered that at close quarters since his move from St Mirren last summer.
“He’s just Jason isn’t he? You saw in that semi-final what he can produce. He has his good days and bad days. But if you took that out of him, he wouldn’t be the same player. I’ve never been at a club with anyone like Jason before. No-one comes close. Nowhere near it.
“He’s 100mph all of the time, always trying to make a joke about someone. It’s great to be around. He’s always positive and doesn’t let himself get down. It’s brilliant to have someone like that in the dressing-room.
“He’s infectious and he plays the game with a smile on his face. Thankfully we managed to get through that semi-final. If we hadn’t, the gaffer wouldn’t have been too happy with him.
“I’m his room-mate but I had no idea that he’d dink the penalty at Hampden. But when I saw the way he placed the ball on the spot, I had a sneaky feeling that something different was coming. Liam Henderson thought the same – we know him inside out. But to have the bottle to stick his hand up in the shoot-out and hit another one, that shows what he’s all about. He put us in the final.
“After the game, he was a bit coy because the older boys were there. But let’s say he hinted that if it had gone in, he’d have been a hero. That’s just the way he looks at things.
“Jason tries to grab the positive out of everything, even when we were losing games in the league. He’d come in and the boys would be down. But Jason would ask: ‘what’s your face tripping you for’? And he was right. The previous game would have been gone and that’s the way you should look at it. He’s always focusing on the next game.”
McGinn can provide a fascinating insight into why Cummings is so well thought of by those who know him best. He might seem devil-may-care but he is, in reality, a boy with a devilish sense of humour who really does care. “Jason treats everyone the same, from the video analysis guy to the boys in the youth team. There’s nothing ‘big-time’ about him. If you don’t know him, maybe that’s what you think. But he’s just an extremely confident boy with a big personality.
“I had only played against him a few times but didn’t know him. The only time I’d came across him was his tin of beans interview. So I had my doubts about him. But when I met him I knew he wasn’t what everyone had made him out to be. The more you see and hear of him, the more you realise that he’s not a bad person. He’s good to have about the place.
“As a room-mate, I get quite a lot of sleep actually. Once Friday comes, he chills down a bit. He calms down to a riot. Then in the morning, he starts getting his barnet sorted. He gives George Craig [head of football operations] some stick if the hotel doesn’t have a hairdryer.
“But behind closed doors, he’s really professional, 100 per cent. As soon as he’s on that training pitch, big Taff [assistant Andy Holden] won’t let him mess about. You can see how far Jason has come. That doesn’t come without hard work and concentration. He’s always working on his finishing and he scores all sorts of goals. He’s a top player for us. As a striker, he’s something different and that will take him far. I hope he stays at Hibs for a long time but he’s very ambitious. You can’t hold a talent like that back.”
This lunchtime, a win for Falkirk at home to Morton is likely to see them hold on to second place at Hibs’ expense in the final round of regular Championship games. With the two teams separated only on goal difference, Hibs need to either better Falkirk’s result or, in the event of both recording victories, beat Queen of the South by winning margin that is plus-three that of Peter Houston’s men. If Hibs stay in third, they will face the prospect of seven games in three weeks as they push for success in the play-offs and the May 21 Scottish Cup final against Rangers.
“It’s strange. I’ve never really been involved in a last-day drama,” said McGinn. “On Tuesday night [in the 4-0 win over Dumbarton], we were too keen on getting the goal difference down after we went 2-0 up, as opposed to focusing on the performance. The gaffer has told us we need to be more patient and the goals will come. We could have scored more against Dumbarton which is frustrating. But it put the pressure on Falkirk. If they do the business against Morton, they deserve to finish second.”