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RUSSELL LATAPY was on fire again as the Bairns kept up their 100 per cent record in the SPL.


And although it's well known the little Trinidadian enjoys the odd cigarette, his team-mate Patrick Cregg rates him as highly as the superfit Arsenal men he used to train alongside.

Cregg spent some time at Highbury prior to being snapped up by John Hughes last season and the Irishman admits he has been mesmerised by some of the skill his 38-year-old teammate has displayed.

This was another vintage display from the former Rangers and Hibernian midfielder and if he cannot be persuaded to play on until he is 40 then it will be a travesty.

Latapy has played for the full 90 minutes in both of Falkirk's league games this season and The Bairns sit atop the SPL alongside St Mirren and Hearts.

He scored the equaliser from a free-kick against Dundee United at Tannadice last week to start the Bairns revival, then set up the winner for good measure.

He is undoubtedly Falkirk's talisman. He was kidding us on at the end of last season when he said he would probably retire after the 2006 World Cup finals.

And why should he quit? He is one of the finest imports ever to have graced the SPL and Alex McLeish, his old boss at Easter Road and Ibrox, knew what he was doing when he brought him to these shores.

Bairns defender Darren Barr grabbed the glory on Saturday with the game's only goal after just 11 minutes.

However, it was Latapy's star turn that had his team-mates and manager gasping with admiration.

Cregg said: "In terms of natural ability, he's one of the best players I have trained with.

When you consider how good his touch is, he would settle in at Arsenal easily.

"Honest to God, he's as good as any player I ever trained or played with at Arsenal.

"Two weeks ago, we played a friendly with Norwich and one pass he played with the outside of his left peg was fantastic.

"I haven't played with another footballer who is capable of doing that.

"I played with the Arsenal first team and trained regularly with them for six months before I came here to Falkirk and Russell would fit in there. He's magic.

"He's teaching me good stuff in terms of my awareness of the game, so I hope he will stay for as long as possible, please God.

"Obviously, he is not going to be able to do it every week as that's asking a bit much.

"Being a youngster, I want him to teach me when he's training with us because he's a good coach.

"I respect him and I want to listen to him."

Cregg signed a contract extension with the Bairns last week after boss Hughes labelled him a future Falkirk captain.

There is a bit of devilment about Cregg, which is always great to see in a player, and the yellow cards keep coming thick and fast but the Irishman can certainly play .

And he admitted to being flattered by the manager's praise of him.

Ironically, Cregg only came back into the first team after Hughes decided to axe Tam Scobbie, who had performed outstandingly in the 2-1 win at Tannadice last Saturday.

Cregg said: "It is flattering to hear the manager talk about me as a future captain but it is important I keep playing well every week.

"Just because I have signed an extension, I can't rest on my laurels and I want to build from here.

"I was captain in pre-season and that was good experience but there are a few lads older than me at the club.

"I'm not intimidated by anyoneand I want to be as good as, or better than, the older players.

"I could have gone to Belgium or League One before coming here but I know what my ambitions are and I hope to God John Hughes can help me achieve them.

"I want to be in the team every week and I feel sorry for the other person who gets left out but it will happen to me sometimes as well.

"The gaffer showed faith in me to put me in the team so I want to repay him."

Cregg is delighted that Falkirk have made an unbeaten start to the season.

He said: "We'll keep playing that way and hope it pays off.

"It has been great to win the first two games of the season but our main objective is still just to stay in the league."

Manager Hughes still believes the Bairns will feature in the battle for survival come next May.

And he admitted that it upset him to leave Scobbie on the bench for tactical reasons.

Yogi said: "I still fully expect us to be caught up in the relegation dogfight come the end of the season.

"I am delighted with the point and felt we were worth maybe a couple of goals in the first half.

"The performance wasn't as good in the second half but we dug in and all you can ask from your defenders is a clean sheet.

"Generally, I am happy with the way we went about our business.

"Tam Scobbie was the man of the match against Dundee United last week and I changed a winning team for tactical reasons.

"I sacrificed him and he took it very well. His time will come again but it broke my heart to have to do that."

MAN OF THE MATCH
Russell Latapy (Falkirk)

MAN BY MAN
Scott Higgins: Great save denied Simmons certain first-half equaliser. 7
Jack Ross:Powerful performance. Rampaged up and down right flank to supplement attack. 7
Darren Barr: Give Bairns early lead with bullet header. 7
Karl Dodd: Aussie centre-half can play a bit and kept it nice and tidy defensively. 6
Kenny Milne: Always a threat running into space and got forward down left side to good effect. 6
Patrick Cregg: Fiery Irishman enjoys midfield combat but needs to learn to control temper. 7
Vitor Lima: Used ball wisely enough but must impose himself more. 6
Liam Craig:Put in solid shift once he got going. 6
Russell Latapy: Vintage performance should have been capped with a goal. Choose any superlative you like. 9
Alan Gow: Excellent feet and balance. Gave Bamba the runaround. If he could finish, he'd be world class. 8
Pedro Moutinho: Inventive player who gives it his all. Has good understanding with Gow and Latapy.6