Mon, Jul

Russell LatapyTD backs Warriors set-up.
Lincoln "Tiger" Phillips, a former national standout and present Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) technical director, praised the appointment of Russell Latapy as player/ assistant coach, but insisted that the 40-year-old Scotland-based playmaker would be of more assistance on the field than off it.
Latapy started just twice for Falkirk this season in the Scottish Premier League, both losses to Glasgow Rangers and Hibernian. His last start was seven weeks ago, although he made his third appearance of the season yesterday as a late substitute when Falkirk lost 3-2 to Motherwell. At present, Falkirk are second from bottom in the SPL with only goal difference separating them from table proppers, Aberdeen.

The prospect of the "Little Magician" returning as a player was met with skepticism by former national players and coaches like Alvin Corneal and Everald "Gally" Cummings, although Cummings urged the TTFF to give Latapy the top coaching post.

But Phillips, who is in his second World Cup campaign as technical director, disagreed with Corneal and Cummings on both points.

"I think Latapy's inclusion is a plus not so much off the field but on the field," Phillips told the Express. "We don't have a player like Latapy. We need players with composure and who are smart and can play in the middle of the field and possess the ball with a certain amount of flair and creativity.

"He can bring that to us."

Phillips suggested it was a risk to play Latapy alongside Sunderland's veteran midfielder and 36-year-old national captain Dwight Yorke, but did not rule it out.

"I cannot say it is unwise to play both of them at the same time," said Phillips. "I think that playing both of them at the same time would be a risk, but (Leo) Beenhakker took a risk against Sweden (in the 2006 World Cup in Germany) when he sent on (Cornell) Glen and played with two forwards although we were a man short.

"The key is for the coach to put them in the right place at the right time."

Phillips only found out about Latapy's new role within the TTFF after the deal was completed. But he remains a fan of the present coach, Colombian Francisco Maturana, and does not feel that Latapy's return should infringe on the responsibilities of Maturana's local assistant, Anton Corneal, either.

He likened Latapy's role to that of an on-field coach.

"One of the things we do lack is some kind of leadership on a field," he said. "Latapy will add leadership and he will know what the coach needs. A lot of times, a coach has to wait until halftime to give instructions which can be deadly.

"That doesn't diminish the role of Anton Corneal one iota. The top teams have five or six coaches, so who is Trinidad? We have to make it work."

Phillips claimed to have spoken at length with Maturana and is convinced that the new technical staff can gel once the relevant parties have the right attitude. He urged the respective coaches to put aside egos for the national good.

"They need to check their egos at the door and focus on taking us to the next round," he said. "The only thing we must see is winning that game (against Guatemala) and winning the next game (against the United States) and getting into the next round.

"People talk about us coming fourth (in the final round), but I am convinced that we can come first or second and qualify directly. We have our weaknesses in terms of players but if we focus on our strengths and really try to minimise the weak areas, I am convinced that we will do well.

"Forget about (Dennis) Lawrence or Stern (John) being dropped because this happens with all the top teams in the world. (Brazil star) Ronaldinho got dropped."

Trinidad and Tobago football fans should get their first look at the new set-up on Wednesday when the "Soca Warriors" play the Dominican Republic in a friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium before they travel to Guatemala.