BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs insists he is “relaxed” about the mounting interest in Jason Cummings as the in-form striker bids to shoot down Dundee United this evening.
English Championship outfit Fulham are the latest side to be credited with an interest in the 20-year-old, who bagged his 11th goal of the season with a wonder-strike in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Rangers.
That followed hot on the heels of Rotherham boss Neil Redfearn publicly declaring his admiration for the Scotland under-21 internationalist last week as they hunt for attacking reinforcements.
Stubbs admits the buzz surrounding Cummings, who is contracted until the summer of 2017, comes as no surprise in light his recent form, however he remains comfortable with the situation.
And he has urged Cummings to simply focus on continuing his sparkling form – starting with tonight’s visit of United in the last eight of the League Cup.
Stubbs said: “It doesn’t surprise me. The way we approach it to tell him to keep scoring goals. Everything else takes care of itself – just keep doing what you are doing.
“We are relaxed with it all. If he keeps scoring goals, we know there’s going to be interest in him – and lots of interest at a high level. We’ll cross that bridge in January.
“We’ve been working really hard with him in terms of his movement and the positions he takes up. For me, early on, he came to the ball too much or he was receiving it in the wrong areas of the pitch. Now he’s very conscious not to do that.
“For all we joke about him being a bit daft, he’s becoming more intelligent on the football pitch which has been very pleasing for me.”
If Stubbs, who has already masterminded a victory over Aberdeen in this season’s League Cup, is to claim another Premiership scalp, he will need to get the better of his former Bolton pal Mixu Paatelainen.
The pair were teammates for the Trotters and Stubbs is looking forward to a reunion at Easter Road – as long as he emerges victorious.
Stubbs smiled: “We played together at Bolton and I’ve come across him on a couple of occasions since then. It’ll be great to see him and get a catch up, hopefully after we’ve won the tie!
“He was a big favourite down there – he was big in every sense of the word; a big, strong guy and someone very difficult to play against in training.
“But he was a really lovely guy and a very good team-mate in a successful time at Bolton.”
As well as providing a mouth-watering chance to reach the semi-final of a major cup competition, tonight’s fixture will mark a landmark occasion for Hibee stalwart Paul Hanlon, who makes his 250th appearance for the capital club.
Hanlon, who was actually handed his debut as a raw 17-year-old by Paatelainen, has been a standout performer this season and capped a fine display against Rangers on Sunday afternoon with the winning goal.
Stubbs said: “It is a great achievement. He is still only young, so to have amassed 250 games – especially at one club – is great for Paul. He should be very proud of himself – but he should be prouder if he progresses in the cup!
“He has been very consistent since I have come in. And it is no coincidence that he is very professional off the pitch.
“He is dedicated and works hard to be as good as he can be in every sense of the word, whether that is doing some extra training or physically, which he has worked very hard on, I have to say.”