Scotland View: What Scottish football really thinks of Jason Cummings the Socceroo

In his latest column for KEEPUP, Edinburgh News and The Scotsman journalist Barry Anderson gives the Scottish perspective on Jason Cummings’ incredible career transformation in the A-Leagues.

You need only hold one conversation with Jason Cummings to realise he bucks many trends. He confounds stereotypes galore with a chequered past, a vocal personality and a career which seemed to be waning as recently as 14 months ago. The turnaround since has been nothing short of remarkable and proves that writing off this uninhibitable striker is a dangerous gamble indeed.

He is currently with Graham Arnold and the Australian national team in Sydney ahead of back-to-back friendlies against Ecuador. Were Cummings to pinch himself at how the last year unfolded, it would be perfectly understandable. He was released by Dundee last January and, at the very young age of 26 and appeared to be something of an outcast with no future in the Scottish top-flight. 

‘WE FEEL LIKE WE BELONG NOW’: How World Cup euphoria has driven Socceroos to next level
RYAN STRAIN: Socceroo’s wild backstory feat. Hall of Famers & Grealish
KEEPUP BEYOND THE A-LEAGUES: Schwarzer’s son called up by World No. 134
PODCAST VIEW: ‘He reminds me of a young Gareth Bale’

He quickly decamped to Central Coast Mariners on an 18-month contract – a move which would catapult him to the World Cup in Qatar.

It is generally accepted within Australian football circles that players must leave the domestic league and test themselves in Europe in order to further their careers. It has been this way for decades. Ask the likes of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Ryan McGowan and dozens of others. Cummings did the complete opposite by going from Britain to Oz to transform himself into a World Cup Socceroo against all the odds.

He was born in Edinburgh, came through the youth system at Hearts before joining Hibernian and then played for Nottingham Forest, Rangers (loan), Peterborough United (loan), Luton Town (loan), Shrewsbury Town and Dundee. He represented Scotland twice at full international level but only in friendly matches. As such, he was able to switch allegiance to Australia – his mother, Tracey, was born in Perth – with FIFA’s blessing.

It is literally the decision which changed his life. One minute you are heading out of Dundee accused of being unfit to train, the next you’re hugging Lionel Messi after a World Cup knockout tie against Argentina. Cummings regards himself as a prime joker, but even he would have erased such a far-fetched scenario from any comedy routine.

It is all his own doing, nonetheless, and he deserves credit for the transformation. In Scotland, Cummings was viewed as a player with plenty of talent and charisma but who lacked the absolute professionalism to maximise his potential. Previously criticised for some well-publicised and questionable antics in the UK, his reputation began to precede him.

He is still the same lively character but, from afar, he appears to be perhaps more focused and driven to seize whatever opportunities come his way Down Under. It is refreshing to see a so-called wild child tamed so effectively, even if many people in Scotland are still rubbing their eyes in disbelief at such a rapid career upturn.

He has 15 goals in 22 appearances for the Mariners so far this season and it is exactly that kind of scoring ratio which prompted Arnold to call him up before Qatar 2022. World Cup exposure took his career to a different platform. Media in Scotland reported his escapades during the tournament and that photo of his embrace with Messi is already a career highlight. Many other footballers with considerably more experience would kill for such a moment with a true global superstar.

The recent A-Leagues All Access series captured Cummings in typically jovial mood as he arrived for Mariners training near Christmas. The World Cup over, he was in high spirits despite failing to get France striker Olivier Giroud’s shirt after their group match with the Socceroos. 

“I got a message from Giroud. He DM’d me on Insta. I’ll show you, bro,” the striker announced to the Mariners dressing room. He later asked: “What do I say in French? Je m’appelle Le Cumdog?” The episode in question offered a useful and amusing insight into his character.

Now comes a different challenge. Now Cummings needs to maintain form, dedication and attitude to ensure he stays part of the Socceroos squad and enjoys a long and successful international career.

Might he take part in the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico? He would be 30 then so there is no reason why not, provided Australia qualify.

His career will always be colourful and eventful, yet he has learned how to add the correct colours and events at the appropriate times. It comes with maturity and makes it difficult to grudge Cummings his new-found international way of life.

Barry Anderson has been a football correspondent for The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News since 2005, primarily covering Hearts and the Scotland national team.