Johnny chooses someone or something in football that deserves celebrating for what they’ve done this week.
Who’s this week’s hero, Johnny?
This week’s hero is a 24-year-old Scotsman who plies his trade as a striker for Shrewsbury Town, his sixth club in six years a professional. Normally my hero of the week is a high performer, at the top of their trade in one way or another, but that really can’t be said of this week’s man. However, his qualification comes via a moment of FA Cup glory and is a celebration of a man who has moments of greatness. He’s probably the only player to have a tattoo of a grinning mouth on his hand so that when he cups his face it appears to be his lips and teeth. Now that’s Bantz. This genuinely caused a mini-craze for the tattoo in the west of Scotland when he was playing for Rangers.
An Edinburgh boy, he started his youth career at Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale Football Club playing in the East of Scotland League but made his professional debut for Hibernian at Easter Road, despite being a Hearts fan and going to a Tynecastle school.
A prodigious young talent, it’s often been said that he fancied himself something rotten, would eat himself with a spoon. Some like Alex McLeish said he’s a maverick, others just think he’s as daft as a toilet without a flush. The two things often go hand-in-hand in my experience.
He was only 18 when he took his first team bow, however the season was to end in relegation after Jason missed a penalty in the shoot-out with Hamilton Academicals. I was right behind the goal that day and I have never known any football crowd so expecting to lose a game, let alone a shootout. Somehow, via the wisdom of crowds, everyone knew they were going down, despite being 2- 0 up from the first leg and so it proved.
He’s got a couple of Scotland caps and is probably only a good run of form away from a few more considering the national teams dearth of goalscorers. With 97 goals in 240 games, he’s not the most prolific but isn’t bad. Jason isn’t a regular, 7/10 sort of guy. He’s all about big moments. He’s a 10 or a 2. That’s just the way it is. Last weekend he was a 10.
A no bad striker who fancies himself a bit? A man I always call Jumbo, for reasons that relate to adult entertainment of the 1970s? A man who actually calls himself Cumdog? That’ll be Jason Cummings then.
What have they done to deserve this then?
This weekend saw him come off the bench to score twice to give the Shrews a famous and highly unlikely draw against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Cummings has always liked the limelight and when at Hibs for four seasons, it often shone brightest upon him. For three seasons consecutively he was the club’s highest scorer netting 69 in 138 games. In the process he picked up several trophies and awards. Scottish Cup: 2015–16, Scottish Championship: 2016–17, SPFL Young Player of the Month September 2014, April 2015, Scottish Championship Player of the Month October 2015, August 2016, PFA Scotland Championship Team of the Year 2015–16, 2016–17. That’s a decent haul and speaks to the talent of the boy.
He was the first Hibs player to score in four consecutive Edinburgh derbies for 42 years. Famously, he missed a penalty kick with a Panenka in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United, which ended goalless, but in typical Cummings-style, scored the winning kick in the penalty shoot-out. Big moments; big Jase. He was part of the cup winning side who took home the silverware for the first time in 114 years and will always have a place on the Hibees Hall of Fame for that. No small achievement, that.
All of this attention led to a move to Nottingham Forest for around a million pounds and a huge pay hike. There were many at the time who questioned how low this fee was and also whether he wouldn’t have been better off playing in a much better side being a player built, not for the trenches, but for the money shot.
English football does tend to undervalue the Scot. However, it didn’t work out at a dysfunctional City Ground and he left after two years and only 17 games and four goals. Thus began a series of loan moves to Rangers, Peterborough and Luton, all of which delivered the occasional starring role, but none of which really made any extended ripples in football’s waters. Finally he ended up at Shrewsbury, naturally scoring his first goal with an 86th minute equaliser after coming on as a sub. That is very typical Cummings.
His is a story common to football of a young talent who has yet to fulfil on the huge promise of his early years. But he’s still just 24 so there’s plenty of time for him to do so. However, that would probably require a dedication, not just to the sport, but to the lifestyle that goes with it, and that so far, has proven a bit of a problem for him. People do change as they get older, so maybe that is destined to be his story. But if he doesn’t, ach well, he’s already achieved more than most men who have ever kicked a football. Some perspective is needed.
If you want to know the sort of chap our man is, his post-match interview probably illustrates perfectly.
Can't help but like Jason Cummings… 😂 pic.twitter.com/2RixAjYQAQ
— Greegsy's Gloves (@Gers89_) January 26, 2020
Anyone grumpy about it?
Primarily Jurgen Klopp whose all-conquering side let the two goal lead slip and thus forcing a replay. As we know, there’s nothing top Premier League clubs like less than having to play more football matches, despite having incredible resources. It is one of the most sour, downbeat, shit-kicking mentalities of the modern game. At times it seems the more wealth the top clubs get the less they seem willing or able to cope with the demands of, y’know, actually playing football, which, in case they forgot, is why they exist. Aw diddums, did the rich football club have to play some more football? Yeah well suck it up, you let the lead slip. If you don’t like it, go and play in a grotesque sealed Super League where you can do less for more money and leave the rest of us to enjoy the game that birthed you but which you’re so happy to kick around like so much unwanted litter. But only on one condition; when it all falls apart due to lack of interest, you can’t come back. Yeah, then a cup replay against Shrewsbury might look like a really good, exciting, welcome game to play.
What the people say
Perhaps more than most of my H of the W’s, appreciation of Jason relies on having watched him play for Hibs, which is a fairly niche activity. But for those of us who did, we all enjoyed his attitude and goals. And while most of suspected he’d crash and burn once out of the bosom of Easter Road, and that giving him four or five times the already decent wages he was on would lead to lifestyle choices that might hinder his career, we still wished him all the best.
For those of us who see football primarily as sporting fun and not some higher calling which requires viewing the body as a temple, Jason is our man. He seems to have a zest for life and in an often joyless age of gym bunnies, nutritionists, body fat percentages and ceaseless reams of statistics designed to prove things that do not need proving, a man who plays football and enjoys a bit of living H on the H, is much to be welcomed. We start with our traditional 4_4_haiku
Left footed joker
Always with a winning smile
A very good finisher who lacks that burst of pace which would have taken him to a higher level. A good guy who loves the limelight which can also be his downfall.
When he was a Hibs player he took a travel adapter on a trip from Edinburgh to Cardiff!
He has a wrestling ‘alter ego’, and his self-imposed nickname is ‘cumdog’. I think that says it all, really.
— Lainey Donnel 🏴⚽️ (@LaineyDonnel) January 30, 2020
Without doubt a talented footballer who loves the big occasion but very likely to go down as one of the many Hibs players blessed with ability but unable to see the work ethic, lifestyle choices required to get to the very top. Cup Winning Legend though.
His breakthrough at Hibs coincided with my studies in Edinburgh and he was a joy to watch most of the time. Quite eccentric and daft, but in a likable way. Hibs Scottish Cup Hero, didn’t quite work for him in the Championship but he has talent.
Cumdog..say no more.
The fact that he sees both himself and football as fun and entertaining but not to be taken entirely seriously is a credit to him as a person but a disadvantage when it comes to maximising his talent.
— Mark Meadowcroft (@mellotrono) January 30, 2020
What does the future hold?
There’s talk of him playing for Australia, as he qualifies. That’d be great to see. He’d make a good Aussie. Now 24 and playing in the English third tier, safe to say this is not what all of us who saw him in those three great seasons at Hibs thought would become of him. He’s better than that, much, much better. Many Rangers fans feel like he should’ve been kept on, even if just as a third striker. Indeed, most fans like him, like his attitude and slightly one-egg-short-of-the-full-cake approach to life. Fair play to him for that. We live in the era of the new puritan, morally judged at every turn for our lifestyle choices so anyone who gives it the big f**k you to those who chide is a friend to us all.
While there will always be those who say being good in Scotland is to be a big fish in a small pond, the likes of John McGinn, who played alongside Cummings and who looked to have the biggest, heaviest arse in professional football, have long since disproved this. Jason’s problem is that he was perhaps never quite as brilliant as he thought he was. He had the big star attitude, but without developing the consistently stellar football to go with it. There was talk of discipline issues and off-pitch shenanigans involving the usual temptations for a young lad in Leith. All of which is good stuff for fans to hear about and even admire but which will probably put a big cramp in your career. You’re not allowed to have fun any more, now that the passionless bean counters and fitness gurus run the show.
If you don’t live like a monk, abstain from flesh, eat kale and goji berries every day and refrain from casting your seed too widely, you’re a bad person. Maybe Jase was just born in the wrong era. He looks like the sort of lad who would be more at home rolling around on a bed of money with the latest Miss World, or at least Miss East of Scotland Bolt Cutter and Locksmith Rear of the Year.
All of which is a shame because he was and still is a good striker with a quick brain and an eye for the main chance. Perhaps he’ll be one of those players who grows into his career later, as he leaves youthful indiscretions behind. Some people just mature later than others.
I don’t know, but would guess that even Shrewsbury pay more than Hibs ever could, so maybe it’ll suit him to stay there for a while. But with Hearts looking relegation to the Championship in the eye, if they do go down, I can’t imagine for a second that they or indeed Hibs wouldn’t be open to his return to Edinburgh.
Not all footballers can be great, but some can have truly great moments. And that’s Jason Cummings for you and hey, that’s a lot more than most of us can ever claim.