Fri, Jul

Trinidad and Tobago football legend and ex-national captain Russell Latapy has turned down the opportunity to return to the international fold and will remain in Scotland to further his own career.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) selected the 36-year-old Latapy as an assistant coach to new national head coach Leo Beenhakker but the Dutchman preferred his own compatriots Theo De Jonk and Whim Rhizerburg.

Beenhakker did offer Latapy and the 38-year-old David Nakhid, who was also earmarked for a coaching role by the T&TFF, the chance to try out as players but the Falkirk player/coach has reportedly declined.

Latapy could not be reached for comment but a Falkirk source revealed the player is not interested in an international comeback.

The ex-Porto, Hibernian and Glasgow Rangers playmaker told the press in an earlier interview he no longer felt able to do himself justice at international level and would not join Trinidad and Tobago for their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.

He is not short of challenges in Scotland.

The "Little Magician" played a starring role as Falkirk stormed to the Scottish Division One title and will focus on his duties at the club for the 2005/06 Scottish Premier League (SPL) season, which might be his final one as a player.

More relevantly, an international comeback could affect Latapy's position as Falkirk assistant coach, which he seems unwilling to sacrifice.

At present, Latapy coaches the Falkirk reserve team and could make history if he graduates to first team manager-as Brits refer to their head coach.

He will become the first Caribbean head coach in Britain and, almost certainly, Europe if he ever moves to the crest of the technical staff.

Latapy could also follow ex-Liverpool star John Barnes, who had a brief stint as Celtic manager, as the second black manager in the history of the SPL-Barnes is Jamaican-born but represented England at international level.

In England, there are just four black managers from 92 professional clubs at present despite the abundance of professional players of African descent.

Ex-CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh coach and Trinidad and Tobago Pro League "Coach of the Year" Ricky Hill was one of a few black coaches to lead an English professional team when he briefly steered his former club, Luton Town. Hill is also of Caribbean parentage.

Glasgow Rangers manager Alex McLeish told the Trinidad Express that Latapy had the charisma and knowledge to be an excellent coach, although he stopped short of endorsing him as a promising future manager.

McLeish introduced Latapy to the Scottish game when he signed him for Hibernian and once referred to the diminutive dribbler as the greatest player in the history of the Edinburgh club.