Jason Cummings positively bounded into the makeshift media room at what must no longer be referred to as Murray Park yesterday. “I’ve missed you guys,” he claimed and the feeling was undeniably mutual.
The former Hibernian striker, who has joined Rangers on loan from Nottingham Forest, has always been good copy and he clearly relishes the spotlight.
Of course, history is littered with the torn-up contracts of players who have been similarly outgoing, only to subsequently discover that the scrutiny concomitant with a move to Ibrox is more relentless and unforgiving than they would have liked.
Cummings is a young man with a point to prove, though. Mark Warburton (who was Rangers’ manager this time last year) paid big money to take him south last summer, but the 22-year-old, who was rarely used in his favoured central role up front, scored only once in 14 Championship appearances for the Midlands club.
His critics (many of whom are Hibs fans who once worshipped him) point out that he failed to find the net in 18 appearances as Terry Butcher’s side were relegated from the Premiership in 2014 and that he has yet to trouble the statisticians in five semi-final and cup final appearances at Hampden.
Kris Commons, who was, briefly, a team-mate at Easter Road last season, claimed that Cummings wasn’t bright enough to have let his lack of success in England bother him, but yesterday he appeared irked by it while, simultaneously, relishing the challenge which lies ahead at Ibrox, beginning with the visit of Aberdeen tonight.
“I was told down there I wasn’t going to get game time and then I heard Rangers were in for me,” he said. “To come back up here to where I was enjoying my football and be closer to my family meant there were a lot of pros to the move. And who can turn down Rangers? It was a no-brainer for me. I’ve been training with them for a week now and I just can’t wait to get going. Because we’re close in the league, Aberdeen is going to be a big one and it’ll be a good game to start.
“The atmosphere will be a joke. It takes a certain character to play for a Rangers or Celtic, but I feel I have that character. I just cannot wait to get started, honestly.
“I think I’ll embrace it. That’s the best word; I’ll embrace it. I’m going to embrace the full six months, really. We’ll see what happens after that, but I just want to enjoy my time here.”
Rangers, who continue to rely on loans from directors to pay the bills,have now made 14 loan signings since the current regime appointed Warburton in the summer of 2015, a policy which has yet to bear fruit.
However, Graeme Murty, who has been given the manager’s job until May, believes that Norwich City and Scotland defender, Russell Martin, pictured, the latest of the loan Rangers, will help to transform the mindset of the squad.
“Russell’s a consummate professional, a leader and a talker,” he said. “He’s always in here, making sure that he’s ready to go.
“His prep – which he does individually, away from the eyes of any coach – is outstanding and, if we get guys like him in who will elevate our standards and show the others what elite looks like then the further we’ll progress.
“Regardless of what we are now, we need to evolve into something better and I think those people that we have brought in are really empowered to help us do that.”
It will be the first meeting with Aberdeen since Derek McInnes elected to remain at Pittodrie rather than replace Pedro Caixinha (Rangers beat the Dons twice during the protracted courtship).
Murty was so convinced that McInnes would accept the position that he had arranged to take his family on a break. He had to cancel those plans and take charge of the side for a 2-1 home win over Ross County.
“Derek didn’t come and I didn’t get a weekend away, but what I did get was another opportunity at this place and I am unbelievably fortunate and thankful,” he said.
Murty may feel grateful for McInnes’s decision, but the latter is expected to face a hostile reception from the home support tonight.
Rangers can leapfrog the visitors and assume second place on goal difference with a victory, but Murty was keen to stress that this was not personal but strictly business. “It’s just the way it goes,” he said. “He’s made his decision and moved on and we need to ensure we’re not always talking about that. We also need to move on and talk about the exciting times we can have.”
Asked whether there was extra pressure on McInnes tonight, he replied: “Not at all. Derek’s put together a fine squad and he’s working for a really good club. We respect his decision and I’m sure he’s very comfortable with it. What we have to make sure is that we’re ready for Aberdeen at their very maximum when they turn up because they’re always like that in these games.”