Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forgotten Scotland Players: Warren Cummings

23rd of May 2002. Scotland, without a win that calendar year, were in Hong Kong playing in the Reunification Cup to mark the fifth anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification with China.

Scotland were to play the hosts in the second of their two games in the four team tournament. Three days earlier they had lost 2-0 to South Africa to continue an abject run of form under Berti Vogts.

On the day Hong Kong fielded a representative side drawn from their league although the SFA decreed that this game should be treated as a full international.

Which proved to be good news for the Scottish Football Blog's third forgetten Scotland player, whose appearance won him his sole cap.

Hong Kong offered little resistance to a Scotland side driven, the SFA website recounts, by the midfield duo of Christian Dailly and Scott Gemmill.

Dailly and Gemmill both scored in the second half. But it was the first half advantage provided by goals from Sunderland's Kevin Kyle and Dundee United's Steven Thompson that gave Vogts the cushion he needed to blood his latest youngster.

At half time Maurice Ross was withdrawn and replaced by 21 year old Aberdonian Warren Cummings.

This was an example of Vogts' commitment (an admirable if not always winning commitment) to unearthing young players and hidden talents for Scotland.

At the time Cummings was a Chelsea player although he was never to make a senior appearance for the London club.

In the two years before his Scotland cap he'd played ten league games on loan at Bournemouth and made 19 appearances over two loan spells at West Brom - a dozen of them as a substitute.

His most recent spell at West Brom had allowed him to make some cameo appearances as the club won promotion to the Premier League. But that was the closest he had come to top flight football before Vogts took the decision to fast track him into the Scotland team.

His debut did not go unnoticed. But few seem to have dwelled on it at the time. The BBC match report records only:

"Chelsea's young left back Warren Cummings was given his debut."

Cummings probably didn't care. He was 21, contracted to Chelsea and had just made a winning start to his international career.

Unfortunately on his return from Asia things didn't quite progress as he might have liked. The 2002/03 season started with two loan spells and only eight starts at Dundee United.

In January 2003 Cummings made the loan move that would come to define his career. Chelsea farmed him out to Bournemouth for the second time and he'd made 16 league starts by April of the same year.

Impressed with what they saw Bournemouth made the deal permanent that season as they enjoyed promotion from the Football League Third Division. And Warren Cummings has served them loyally - perhaps an issue or two over pay aside - ever since.

Over 200 first team appearances have followed and in February of this year, although no longer a guaranteed starter, he was made club captain.

Along the way there have been rough times. Financial fun and games and a points deduction meant they flirted with dropping out of the Football League altogether before winning their final home game of the 2008/09 season to guarantee their league status.

Things have looked up since then and in 2009/10 Cummings enjoyed his second promotion with the Cherries as they finished runners up in League Two.

And he might not be finished there. As club captain he could yet be enjoying a Wembley glory day as Bournemouth hover around this season's play off spots. Ten seasons after his walk on part in West Brom's successful promotion season - the season that gave him the platform to play for Scotland - Cummings could find himself back in the Championship next season.

A solid career then. But one that began with a cap for Scotland. Warren Cummings was plucked from obscurity by Berti Vogts for 45 minutes of international football. For most of the Tartan Army I guess he returned to that obscurity pretty quickly.

At times that might have rankled. In 2004 he addressed the issue with Bournemouth's official website:

"I've seen players called up who aren't playing every week for their club."

"It disappoints me to be honest to see players playing reserve team football and getting in ahead, of not necessarily me, but payers playing first team football."

"Other players are playing at higher clubs, but that doesn't mean they are better."

"I just try to forget about it to be honest and take it with a pinch of salt. If I ever did get called up though I'd be very happy and would want to play."

"I'd be absolutely delighted because I'm a patriotic man. If I don't I'd never lose any sleep because I don't really see it happening."

"I wouldn't say I'm a victim of playing in the lower divisions, but I doubt Berti Vogts would take time to come to Bournemouth and see me."

"I don't know if he thinks the standard isn't good enough, but I've played up in Scotland and I think Bournemouth are as good as anyone outside Rangers and Celtic."

A hint of bitterness. But it must be countered that Vogts hardly picked Cummings on the basis of a sustained run of form in 2002.

Still one cap and a 4-0 win gives Cummings a 100 percent record for Scotland. That's more than can be said of Berti.

Forgotten Scotland Players Number 3, Warren Cummings, Chelsea, 1 Cap

> Because of Hong Kong's lack of a national side at that time there were some oddities in Scotland's 4-0 win. Not least that the Scots beat a team captained by a Scotsman. Former Dundee midfielder Gary McKeown had the honour of the armband for the Hong Kong side that day. Scotland, for the record, finished second in the tournament behind South Africa and ahead of Hong Kong and Turkey.