BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Hibs defender Paul Hanlon insists Jason Cummings and Leigh Griffiths are poles apart off the pitch – but increasingly resemble carbon copies of each other on it.
Hanlon knows Cummings has a long way to go to match Griffiths’ feats with Celtic and Scotland, but reckons there are plenty similarities between the pair who have been Hibs’ top scorers in recent times.
Griffiths bagged 39 goals during two loan spells with his boyhood heroes and Cummings has replaced him as the new fans’ favourite at Easter Road with 36 goals for the club so far.
The 20-year-old has netted in each of his last eight games for club and country, following up seven in a row for Hibs by scoring one and setting up another for the under-21s on Friday night.
It is an eye-catching record that has seen the 20-year-old linked with interest from Bournemouth, Fulham, Rotherham and Brighton and one he will be seeking to continue at home to Livingston tonight.
And Hanlon has no doubts the former Hearts youth, who Hibs plucked from life as a gardener just two years ago, has a bright future on the pitch – even if he is as daft as a brush off it.
Asked to compare Cummings and Griffiths, Hanlon commented: “I’d say they are very similar.
“Obviously, the first thing you look at is they’re both left-footed. But just the way they play, off the cuff, is similar.
“They can do anything in the game and have a sort of care-free way of playing.
“It’s the attitude they both have as well. They can both go into games and you know, even if it’s not going your way, they could win the match for you.
“That’s a great thing to have in your team.
“I think Jason realises he came into football late and he’s enjoying every minute of it – and you can see that on a Saturday.”
Asked about Cummings’ madcap reputation and that of Griffiths, Hanlon added: “Who’s dafter? Jason, easy.
“Leigh came across more to people on the outside as being a daft boy. But when he was in the club he was quite quiet. He wasn’t too loud in the changing room, he just got about his business.
“He did his training on the pitch and just got himself up the road.
“But Jason’s more daft. It’s just generally – the way he talks and the way he is, every day.
“He keeps the dressing room buzzing and bubbly every day. There’s aways a laugh when he’s around.
“He’s a big character and a big player for us as well.”
Cummings has been a headline-writer’s dream since breaking into the Hibs first-team two seasons ago.
After scoring in the promotion play-off tie with Hamilton Accies last year, he talked of ‘opening a tin of beans’ with his ‘zing’ of a shot, and last season described a goal at Ibrox as showing ‘the touch of an angel’.
But Hanlon, who revealed he was not concerned by a lack of talks with the club over a new contract, believes his team-mate’s on-field displays are now overshadowing his eccentric persona.
He said: “Those were the kinds of things he was getting remembered for at the start, but now it’s what he can do on a football pitch.
“His touch is getting a lot better as well, so he can call it what he wants!
“I think you’ve seen since Jason came into the team his improvement has been massive.
“He’s always been able to score goals but his build-up play and everything like that has improved so much. I think that will only get better.
“And if you’ve got that on top of a natural ability to score goals then you’ve got a chance anywhere.”