RUSSELL Latapy last night admitted that he owes Falkirk manager John Hughes a debt of gratitude for helping put him on the brink of his managerial bow.
The former Bairns, Hibs and Rangers playmaker faces a daunting task to get the Soca Warriors off the bottom of a six-team section, starting with Saturday's home meeting with Costa Rica and then a trip to Mexico next Wednesday. But Latapy, who first cut his coaching teeth under Hughes, hopes to handle the pressure and learn from his past experiences at Westfield.
He said: "It's a tremendous honour for me. When I started coaching around five or six years ago (at Falkirk), I always had the hope of being able to lead my national team someday. Now that day is here. Just like every player wants to pull on the national team jersey and represent their country, it's the same for a coach.
"There are quite a few challenges when you talk about Caribbean football. But I know that I was put in charge with the task of helping the team to reach the World Cup in South Africa.
"That is a serious task, especially considering we are currently bottom in the final six-team group." Following his departure from Falkirk in January – ending over ten years in Scotland – Latapy had hoped to return to cheer on Hughes in Saturday's Scottish Cup final defeat to Rangers.
But his Trinidad work has instead consumed him and he hopes his squad, among them Collin Samuel of St Johnstone and Raith's Marvin Andrews, can get their campaign back on track. Latapy, who is unlikely to add to his 77 caps, added: "I'm pretty satisfied with the way things are going. I've had a good bit of time to work with the players and, with a bit of luck, things could go our way.
"I must admit that at this level it's extremely difficult to do both the playing and the coaching. Right now, I think I need to focus on the coaching side, but I can't rule anything out either."