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Russell Latapy #10Latapy joins staff tomorrow

Trinidad and Tobago national football team head coach Francisco Maturana and his assistant Russell Latapy will have their first meeting as co-employees tomorrow in the Technical Development Office at the Kantac Plaza, Arouca.
The get-together is set to be chaired by team manager David Muhammad and will be followed by a fitness test for the national squad from 4 p.m. at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. The media is not invited to tomorrow's work-out, according to press officer Shaun Fuentes, although they are free to observe the team's sessions from Tuesday.

The "Soca Warriors" travel to Argentina on January 21 for a live-in camp designed primarily to maintain the condition of the Pro League and United States-based players, whose respective leagues closed late last year, before their 2010 World Cup qualifier away to El Salvador on February 11. But it is arguably just as important that Maturana and Latapy have an extended period to get better acquainted as fellow coaches.

Latapy was named as player/ assistant coach when he ended his international retirement to join the Warriors last October but he found that his terms of reference changed when he landed in Piarco. At the time, Maturana made it clear that he was happy with his present technical staff and did not want another coach.

"This is my staff here," Maturana told the Express, as he gestured towards his co-workers including assistant coach Anton Corneal. "I want to see Latapy on the field."

Three months later, it appears that the two-time Colombia World Cup coach has little choice in the matter.

FIFA vice-president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser Jack Warner said, on December 27, 2008, that Latapy's role "would not be cosmetic" and "he will have a very authoritative role in the team".

Corneal will not travel to Argentina with the senior team and remains in Trinidad to command the national under-17 team. The TTFF are yet to say whether Latapy's inclusion might make Corneal's reassignment permanent.

Maturana, who worked alongside Corneal's dad, Alvin Corneal, on the FIFA technical committee before he moved to Trinidad last February, is unlikely to be impressed by his assistant's absence.

The Colombian might also be interested in an explanation from Latapy regarding his remarks on the present senior team.

"I think that in the last round, anybody who saw the team would have seen we had a lot of talent," Latapy told the TTFF last month, "but I think there was a lack of organization and cohesiveness in the team... We have to do our homework and know what the other team's strengths and weaknesses (are) but at the same time we have to know what are our own strengths and weaknesses and build on it."

Whatever the merits of Latapy's assessment, Maturana might feel uneasy about his supposed deputy being publicly critical about his squad.

There has been much rumour about Latapy replacing Maturana at the technical helm since the "Little Magician" returned to the fold last October. But, unless Latapy's promotion is calculated to provoke a resignation letter from the head coach, it seems that the pair must plot Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup qualifying success together. Tomorrow's meeting represents the first step.