MELBOURNE, March 22 (Reuters) – Wearing a buttoned-up polo shirt and diligently answering media questions, the modern-day Jason Cummings seems a world away from the wayward footballing talent who left Dundee in acrimony just over a year ago.
In many ways, he is.
The 27-year-old striker, now based in Australia’s sleepy Central Coast, has become a cult hero for the local Mariners side which has managed to extract his best on the field while still embracing his exuberance.
Australia has also embraced the man who nicknamed himself ‘Cumdog’ and played two friendlies for Scotland a few years ago before his career, literally, went south.
His form for A-League side Mariners won him a spot on Graham Arnold’s World Cup squad in Qatar where he played his second match for Australia off the bench in a 4-1 defeat to France.
A few months on, with a new World Cup qualifying cycle approaching, Cummings hopes to play a bigger part in Arnold’s set-up, starting with a pair of friendlies against Ecuador in Sydney on Friday and Melbourne next week.
“Confidence is high. I’ve been doing well with the club scoring goals. The Mariners, I always love it there, always get chances,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’d like to get a bit more game-time (with Australia) but the World Cup was amazing, the best experience of my life.
“I was over the moon just to get on the pitch.
“I feel settled and all the boys are great. It feels like a proper family here.”
Born in Edinburgh but eligible for the Socceroos through his mother, who was born in Australia, Cummings headed to the Mariners last year after being released by Scottish club Dundee, where he generated headlines for an unauthorised appearance on a live football show in Glasgow dressed as Batman villain the ‘Joker’.
Dundee staff deemed him “unfit” to train following the event and sent him home.
Something of a loose cannon in Scotland, Cummings has been a sharpshooter in the A-League this season, netting 14 goals in 20 appearances for the Mariners to be second on the scoring list behind Melbourne City’s ever-prolific Jamie Maclaren.
He credits maturity for his form and a better understanding of when to flick the switch between his dual personas: the off-field family man and the madcap footballer.
Becoming a World Cup player has not meant Cummings has suppressed his love of banter and hijinks.
Far from it.
He remains a loud and mouthy presence in the Mariners changing room where he once paraded in a G-string in front of cameras for losing a bet on the result of a Scotland v Turkey match with a team mate.
He does not mind riling up opposition fans after scoring goals. After one Mariners game he belted out a couple of lines from a pop song to Australia coach Arnold who had been watching in the terraces.
Such antics might have triggered negative press in Scotland but not in Australia where Cummings is seen as a lovable rogue helping to raise the profile of a sport that can struggle for attention between World Cups.
He is also walking proof that A-League players can still find their way into a Socceroos squad dominated by overseas-based players.
“I’ve always backed the A-League. I feel like there’s a lot of talent there … a lot of lads who will be future Socceroos,” he said.
“I just love to see the A-League getting the recognition.”
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.