They might now be associated with different sides of the same city but Sam Nicholson and Jason Cummings were once very much in the same team.
So Hearts winger Nicholson can provide testimony of the Hibs striker’s character from first-hand experience. He swears Cummings hasn’t changed a bit since days when they were together at Hutchison Vale, the Edinburgh based boys’ club now amalgamated with Lothian Thistle. They were also at Hearts for a spell together before Cummings was released by the Tynecastle club.
According to Nicholson, his old friend has been a live-wire since day one. But as both players prepare to reunite this week with Scotland Under-21s, who play FYR Macedonia in a European Championship qualifier at Tynecastle on Friday, is it helpful having such a lively presence as the Hibs striker around the place?
“Sometimes!” smiled Nicholson, who has had plenty of time to get used to Cummings’ ways – they first met when they were eight. He quickly warmed to Cummings, whose capacity for stealing attention meant others felt safe in the knowledge he was likely to get all the grief for being principal mischief-maker.
“All in all, he’s a good lad,” said Nicholson. “People misunderstand him. I’ve known him since I was a wee boy. I played at Hutchie with him. So I know exactly what he’s like. He’s harmless. He’s a right character. He is good to have around the squad, for the banter. He’s that funny.”
“He’s not changed at all, that’s the thing,” he added. “People think it’s all an act with him but he’s genuinely been like that since a wee boy. I’m choosing my words wisely here!
“I still speak to him now and he’s the same person. He’s never changed, to be fair to him. I went to Hutchie Vale when I was eight. He’s just always been the same. From the first training session he was all loud. It made it easier for me when I went first went to Hutchie because he was good with everyone. It took the heat off me being new so I wasn’t bothered with it.
“If it was up to me to keep an eye on him, I don’t know if I could do it. But it’s all in good spirit and he’s never really a problem. He’s just Jason. My mum and dad say the same thing about him, he’s never changed. He’s still a big dope, to be honest.”
Cummings has started this season as he did the last campaign, in good goalscoring form. He will be keen to add to his under-21s goals tally on Friday and again against Ukraine, next week. Nicholson believes it is only a matter of time until he graduates to the full squad.
“He’s another you’d expect to take the step up,” he said. “It’s all going to be down to him at the end of the day because he’s got the ability and if he keeps using it then he’s got every chance of doing it.”
Nicholson is looking forward to catching up on the latest developments in Cummings’ career, with Hibs having rejected an offer from Peterborough United reported to be worth £1.2 million. Nicholson believes Cummings has some unfinished business to attend to first – get Hibs promoted. But the Hearts winger imagines Cummings will want to prove he can score goals at a higher level before long.
“I’ve not spoken to him since all that came out,” he said. “Not since he signed a new deal with Hibs….if he’s enjoying it then why not stay. He’s scoring goals week in, week out. Eventually he will want to test himself at a higher level.
“I think he’s doing well and his main target is to get Hibs promoted,” he added. “He seems to be doing well with the club already this season and, with him there, they’re going to get goals. So I think maybe he’s wanting to try and get promoted and give the Premiership another crack then, after that, see what happens.
“He’s more than capable of playing at a higher level, as are a lot of the Hibs players. I think that’s something he’s got to keep in mind himself. It’s down to him.”