Hibs boss Neil Lennon looking forward to working with ‘rascal’ Jason Cumming as striker gets set to sign new deal

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Hibs boss Neil Lennon insists at least one more season at Easter Road will set ‘rascal’ Jason Cummings up for a dream move to England after revealing the striker is on the verge of signing a new contract.

The 20-year-old has been linked with a host of clubs south of the border this summer, as well as Turkish giants Trabzonspor.

Cummings’ current deal expires next May but drawn-out talks over fresh terms for a player that has hit 46 goals in his last two seasons now appear to be reaching a successful conclusion.

jasoncummingsFormer Celtic gaffer Lennon insists staying at Hibs would be best option for both the club and the player, who is expected to pen a new four-year deal.

He said: “I think we’re pretty close. I don’t think we’re far away at all now. That would be a massive boost for us.

“He’s only 20, but I think he’s got really good attributes and there’s more to come from him.

“He’s best placed to do it here because it’s an environment he’s familiar with.

“He knows that myself and Garry (Parker) think very highly of him.

“He knows that he’ll play his fair share of games this season if he stays fit.

“That’s not guaranteed if he goes down the road. I think at least another year here will stand him in good stead going forward.

“He understands that and I think he’s pretty happy with that.”

Live wire Cummings has made headlines off the pitch for the wrong reasons in the past and is not short of confidence on it, although he did miss an attempted Panenka penalty during last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Dundee United.

But Lennon admits he has no problems with Cummings’ bubbly personality.

He added: “I like him – he’s not the brightest. He’s got a good sense of humour.

“He’s got the rascal in him and you don’t want to lose that. I think that’s part of his make-up.

“You have to rein it in a little bit at times but in the main I think he’s been very good around the place.

“He’s got a bit of hunger and there’s more to come from him.

“I think he’s got the knack that all good strikers have, he’s in the right place at the right time and scores the scruffy goals as well, which every team needs. I think that’s important. His attitude has been excellent.

“His workrate’s very good. He’s honest on the pitch – he doesn’t shirk from his responsibilities. He’s willing to improve because he’s got that ambition about him.”

Europa League

Hibs will play their third pre-season match at home to Motherwell tomorrow but Lennon admits he would have liked more time to prepare for Thursday’s Europa League second qualifying round clash against Brondby.

The Danes thrashed Icelandic side Valur 10-1 on aggregate in the last round, with former Celtic marksman Teemu Pukki grabbing three of those goals.

Lennon, who will miss Sunday’s match due to punditry commitments with the BBC for the Euro 2016 final between hosts France and Portugal, added: “It’s still a wee bit early, some of them have played a full game out of the two games (against Berwick and Edinburgh City)

“Ideally we would like to have had a couple more preparation games before Brondby.

“They’ve come through the tie very comfortably, we expected them to. It’s a very tough one but one we’re looking forward to. Garry went to see them.

“We knew they were a good side and they will have their strengths and weaknesses.

“We have to maximise our home advantage and try and take something with us to Denmark.

“It is as tough as European early round ties get.

“They are a Scandinavian team and they have a European pedigree.

“Brondby finished third last season and I would imagine that they will be there or thereabouts this season.

“They have a new German coach in and they like to play a high pressing game and they will be ahead of us in terms of fitness that’s for sure.

“That is something that we will need to be prepared for.

“It is so unfair for the Scottish teams to be playing in Europe at this early stage.”

Keeper

Lennon, meanwhile, admits he will have no qualms about handing 22-year-old Finnish goalkeeper Otso Virtanen a full competitive debut against Brondby after Mark Oxley moved closer to joining Southend.

Lennon, who is running the rule over West Brom keeper Alex Palmer, added: “Mark’s got the opportunity now to go and speak to Southend. It’s up to him and Southend whether the deal goes through.

“I am really comfortable with playing Otso in goal in Europe.

“I have not had the opportunity to see what Otso can do.

“Otso has had 100 games at Finnish level and he knows the Scandinavian game quite well.

“I am fine with Otso going into the game.”

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