Neil Lennon impressed by ‘rascal’ Jason Cummings

Jason Cummings met up with Neil Lennon in France. Picture: SNS
Jason Cummings met up with Neil Lennon in France. Picture: SNS
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Neil Lennon has described Hibs’ efforts to tie Jason Cummings down to a long-term contract as being “pretty close” to reaching a positive conclusion, with the player expected to sign a new four-year deal early next week.

On the day the Easter Road club announced they had reached a target of 10,000 season tickets – 10,051 had been sold as of yesterday morning – the Hibs manager had further good news regarding Cummings, whose contract was due 
to expire at the end of the coming season.

Last season’s top scorer was reported to be interesting several clubs both north and south of the Border.

“I think we’re pretty close,” said Lennon. “I don’t think we’re far away at all now. That would be a massive boost for us. He’s only 20, but I think he’s got really good attributes and there’s more to come from him.”

Lennon arranged to meet the player in Paris while the pair were in France together last month – the manager fulfilling BBC media obligations at Euro 2016 and 
Cummings on holiday.

Lennon stressed to Cummings the value in staying put at least another season, preferably two, before trying his luck elsewhere.

“He’s best placed to do it here [for now] because it’s an environment he’s familiar with,” Lennon said. “He knows that myself and Garry [Parker] think very highly of him. He knows that he’ll play his fair share of games this season if he stays fit. That’s not guaranteed if he goes down the road. I think at least another year here will stand him in good stead going forward. He understands that and I think he’s pretty happy with that.

“I like him,” he added. “He’s not the brightest! [But] He’s got a good sense of humour. His work rate’s very good. He’s honest on the pitch, he doesn’t shirk from his responsibilities. He’s willing to improve because he’s got that ambition about him.

“He’s got the rascal in him and you don’t want to lose that. I think that’s part of his make up. You have to rein it in a little bit at times but in the main I think he’s been very good around the place.

“He’s got a bit of hunger, there’s more to come from him. I think he’s got the knack that all good strikers have, he’s in the right place at the right time and scores the scruffy goals as well, which every team needs. I think that’s important. His attitude has been excellent.”

Cummings has featured in both squads under Lennon to date, as have Alex Harris and Sam Stanton. The latter pair once seemed set to become as vital to Hibs as Cummings is now but were knocked off course by the club’s relegation from the top flight.

But Lennon is hopeful both Harris and Stanton play a part in Hibs’ latest attempt to gain promotion after spending the majority of last season on loan at Queen of the South and Livingston respectively.

“I am a big admirer of Harris, I think he’s an excellent player,” said Lennon. “I liked him a lot when he broke through and I was at Celtic.

“Sam is another one that’s lost his way a little bit, there’s no question he’s got ability at this level. The opportunity is there for them.”

Lennon is at ease with the club’s goalkeeper situation prior to next week’s Europa League qualifier first leg encounter with Brondby. Scottish Cup hero Conrad Logan has departed while Mark Oxley, who played part of Thursday’s 6-1 victory over Edinburgh City, is on course to move to Southend.

“It’s up to him and Southend now whether the deal goes through,” said Lennon of Oxley. Alex Palmer has come on trial from West Brom, recommended by former Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper Jonathan Gould.

Palmer, 19, will feature in tomorrow’s friendly against Motherwell at Easter Road, although Lennon will not be there to watch him first-hand. The manager is returning to Paris for the Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal in 
what is a last summer media commitment to BBC.