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JOHN HUGHES didn't think for a moment that old mate Russell Latapy would make it along to the opening of his new pub.

But then in he strolled with cricket hero Brian Lara and the West Indies team.

It's just typical of what this remarkable player is capable of.

Should anybody really be surprised that the 40-year-old is being honoured by a Russell Latapy day when Falkirk take on Hibs today?

For instance, which other SPL player is hero-worshipped by Chelsea and Portugal superstar Deco or has schools named after him.

Few players in Scotland's top flight match him for natural talent.

But imagine what he would be like if he cut out the fags.

It doesn't take much to spark Falkirk manager Hughes to ramble on about the Trinidadian who seems to bring bags of excitement to people's lives.

Hughes said: "Russell is an absolute legend over in Trinidad.

"I remember going there with Hibs and there were brass bands out to greet him when we landed. They even have schools named after the wee man.

"But you would not know he was such a legend.

"Russell and his mates Dwight Yorke and Brian Lara are wonderful.

"I opened a pub in Leith after I left Hibs for Ayr United and I asked Russell if he would come down on opening night to help me. He said he would see what he could do and I never thought anything more about it.

"So on the night, the door burst open and in walked Russell, Lara and another 6ft 5in West Indian fast bowler.

"I'm serious. The Windies were in Edinburgh at the time and Russell got some of them to come down. He stayed for about and an hour-and-a-half and was brilliant. That's the kind of guy he is.

"We were over in Oporto at a winter break and sitting in a cafe. A wee guy walked in with a cap on and I told everyone I knew that face. It was Deco.

"He was soon over speaking to Russell because, of course, he knew him as well.

"Russell would give you the last penny in is pocket. He looks after the young guys here, gives them boots and all sorts of stuff.

"He is from a really humble background and brings that to the table. He is an unbelievable guy and deserves any tribute going."

Hughes' first move after he became Falkirk manager was to offer Latapy a deal. It was an inspired move.

He said: "Russell brought the name.

Everyone knows him and what a wonderful player he is. It's been said he also brings a bit of baggage but he honestly doesn't have that.

"Once or twice he's been caught in the wrong situation but I know how to handle him and what he brings to a team.

"Our job was to get him fit and build the team around him. I knew he could handle the First Division but he was the one who could take us into the SPL.

"When I got the job here, he was right at the top of my list. It was a nightmare trying to track him down because he's got three mobile phones.

"Eventually I got him, put an offer to him and it was down to his love for the game that he said yes. He loves football and plays it with a smile on his face.

"I was fortunate to play with him at Hibs and for a season he was untouchable.

"He would go do things with a ball which you just couldn't believe.

"Tony Rougier put him on to Alex McLeish who got him over on trial. He played him in a match against Brechin and after five minutes they decided to sign him the next day.

"I went into training and heard awhisper that this wee guy was good. You could see he could play right away.

"I'm at a club where you come come across these diamonds only now and again. We need to appreciate him."

Hughes revealed that he tells the kids to mark Latapy in training, a perfect lesson on how to take on the very best.

Despite his advancing years in football terms, Latapy has still got it.

Hughes said: "We played Celtic in a reserve game and I was frustrated for him because he was just getting back from an ankle injury and the young Celtic kids were passing the ball around them.

"I thought they were too sharp and quick for him. But then he got a ball on the edge of the box and spun it up like Dennis Bergkamp and he caught it on the other side. You would pay admission money to see that.

"For me, the definition of a world class player is one who can do everything on his right and left-hand side.

Russell can do that. "He has a big house in Oporto and I stayed with him for four days when I was scouting over there. He is loved in Portugal and has so many contacts and I asked why he wanted to come back to Scotland.

"But that just shows the guy's desire and commitment to keep playing."

Hughes still believes Latapy can play for one more season. If not, then he's pushing his friend towards coaching.

It is almost written in the stars that one day he will become Trinidad and Tobago's manager. When that happens his current gaffer is ready to go as the kitman.

But even if this is Latapy's last season as a player, Hughes does have a plan B.

He said: "We've got Russell junior signed up. I've got him on a 20-year contract."