As Graham Arnold weighs his attacking options ahead of June’s World Cup playoffs in Doha, Central Coast boss Nick Montgomery says the Socceroos coach should look no further than born-again A-League striker Jason Cummings.
The Scotsman - eligible for Australia through his mother - has put behind him his wild-man reputation since arriving in Gosford in January, with nine goals and six assists from his 17 appearances this A-League season.
Cummings on Strong
- Jason Cummings could the answer to the Socceroos' struggles in front of goal, according to his club boss Nick Montgomery.
- The naturalized Aussie is desperate for a call-up for June's winner-takes-all clash against UAE in Doha, and Peru after that if Australia progress.
- Australia coach Graham Arnold first tracked Cummings when he was on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2019.
More Australian football news can be found on FTBL.
The striker - who carries the adopted moniker of ‘Cumdog’- was on Arnold’s watch-list back in 2019 while on loan at Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
Nothing came of it as Cummings’ form wobbled and wavered in the ensuing years before he ended up in the A-League Men after being released by second-tier Scottish outfit Dundee.
Arriving Down Under with his eccentricities in danger of eclipsing his undoubted talent, Cummings has dialled back the madcap capers in favour of grit, graft and goalscoring to help lift the Mariners into the top six.
“There’s nobody really like him (available to Arnold) in terms of the way he plays,” Montgomery told FTBL.
“You look at the experience he’s had at clubs like Forest, Rangers and Hibernian, and he’s still only 26 years old.
“He’s got another six or so years ahead of him if he breaks through at international level - and for me he’s top quality.
“His stats speak for themselves since he’s arrived here and I think he’d be a great asset to the national team.”
Cummings added to his tally with a double in Saturday’s 4-2 derby win over Newcastle Jets, where he could - and probably should - have buried a couple more.
Arnold is looking for solutions to Australia’s ongoing travails up top where, especially against pedigree opposition, they’ve been found wanting in a qualification campaign for Qatar which began brightly only to disappear behind an ominous black cloud.
Even before the campaign began to unravel with November’s 2-1 loss to Japan at Saitama Stadium, first choice target man Adam Taggart was in the midst of a goal drought.
He subsequently suffered knee problems, and though now fit after surgery hasn’t featured yet this season in the J1 League for Cerezo Osaka.
Melbourne City marksman Jamie Maclaren has yet to duplicate his A-League potency on the international stage, Mitch Duke has been hit and miss whilst 35-year-old Bruno Fornaroli’s call up for Australia’s last camp - the 2-0 home loss to Japan and 1-0 defeat in Saudi Arabia - carried the whiff of desperation.
Whether the Uruguayan-born forward can deliver in Doha against the UAE is shrouded in uncertainty, along with the international bona fides of fellow March call ups Nick D’Agostino and Ben Folami.
What Arnold needs urgently is a finisher who can carry them beyond UAE to a second winner-takes-all play-off against a formidable Peru seven days later.
Montgomery insists that his joker turned predator might hold all the aces.
“Qualify is quality and he’s shown it spades here … everyone in the league loves him,” he added.
“Look at the way he’s played since we brought him in. He should definitely be considered (by the national team) moving forward.
“I think it’s really a no-brainier. I watch him every day and he provides something different.
“He’s not just a number nine. He’s smart and can come deep to pick up possession, and he can run in behind.
“I don’t see any other player in his position (currently available to Australia up front) with his ability.
“He’d love a call-up and I’ve told him to just keep working hard and the opportunity may come. He’s honest, professional and hard working, everything a coach wants in a player.
“He also has leadership qualities and the young players love him.”
Cummings’ madcap off-field antics have cemented his place in the pranksters' hall of fame, whilst sometimes antagonising authority figures along the way.
“He knows he’s done a few silly things in the past which has hurt his reputation,” added Montgomery.
“One of the reasons he moved out here was to reinvent himself, and he’s already achieved that in the space of four or five months.
“He’s leading by example, and is a top person. He’s very happy here. He’s settled in well and loving life and football. That’s why I convinced him to come out.”
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