He has only been in the country for two days, but newly-appointed senior national assistant coach Russell Latapy is ready to take on his newest role in Trinidad and Tobago colours.
"Obviously it's good to be home. It's good to be given the opportunity to help the team progress to South Africa," a delighted Latapy told the media following a robust training session at the Mucurapo Road venue.
He said he is only just getting settled back into the team, which enjoyed a physical workout of mostly local-based players.
"Well it is only the first day, so it's difficult to make an assessment of what is happening," Latapy explained. "What I can say is that the two training sessions that we've had so far have been good training sessions. We're working on a bit of physical fitness because the players have been off for a little bit of time. And we did a bit of ball work as well and that went well."
The 40-year-old player-coach made it clear he is only there to lend support to the technical staff and head coach Francisco Maturana, and said his main objective is to assist T&T in qualifying for the next World Cup.
He also added that aside from his experience on the field, his knowledge of T&T culture and football was also one of his biggest assets.
"What I'm going to bring to the team is knowing the culture and understanding my people. So in saying that, once (I'm) working with the coach, he would decide what capacity I'm needed. What I can say is that I'm part of the planning and the decision-making process."
Latapy, who has been involved in T&T football for almost three decades, asked for the nation's support for the "Soca Warriors" and says he hopes to have a chance to contribute to the national youth set-up in the future.
"I would like to do a lot in terms of looking at all the youth teams and the development of the game and structure in the game, but I think the focus has to be on the first team and getting us to the World Cup."
He also revealed that Scottish Premier League club Falkirk, where he has been player/coach for the past five years, had no problems in honouring their contract with him, which allowed Latapy to leave if a coaching opportunity arose.
"They were fantastic and wished Trinidad and Tobago well. You never know what can happen in football, but I think that's an open door for a lot of young players who are wanting an opportunity."
Latapy was also pleased at the "desire" he has seen from the national players thus far.
"You can tell that there's a lot of desire from some of the young players and they want to do well for their families and themselves and Trinidad and Tobago. But again, it's only my first day, but I would say that that's a good place to start."
Latapy eager for that coaching challenge.
T&T Newsday Reports.
Newly appointed Trinidad and Tobago assistant football coach Russell Latapy is eager to face the challenges of his latest role, ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup CONCACAF Zone Final Round Qualifiers.
The 40-year-old Latapy was speaking during a recent radio interview.
“I’m delighted with the opportunity,” said Latapy, who is also known as the “Little Magician”. “I’ve always felt that I’ve got a lot to contribute in a coaching capacity.
Latapy, who was recently the player/coach at the Scottish Premier League club Falkirk, will serve a similar role with the national team.
“I’ve also said that I’ll get in the best physical condition,” he said. “If I need to play, to help Trinidad and Tobago, I would do that.
“But it would be unfair for me to say too much because I would like to have the opportunity to speak to the coach (Francisco Maturana), to give him that respect, before I go on and talk about what is my role in the team.” Latapy is totally aware that, in the world of coaching, “only two things can happen, you can be successful or unsuccessful.
“I think the way we performed in the last round, there is a lot of potential in the squad and I think we can do and show better performances in the next round,” he continued. “Hopefully, with me getting involved, I would be able to help the team.”
The former national captain, who had an extensive club career in Jamaica, Portugal and Scotland, thinks that the availability for players to seek overseas contracts can serve as an inspiration for the local-based footballers.
“I think this current crop has a bit more motivation, simply because in my time, there weren’t a lot of (overseas) players who can give you the aspiration to know that if you do well enough, then you have the opportunity to go outside and make a good living,” stated Latapy. “I think the current players (have) got the drive and they want to do well for Trinidad and Tobago, and they’ve got the added bonus to know that if the team does well, then they can have the chance to (go) to Europe and make a good living (from) the game.” Like many high-profile players, Latapy has run afoul with authorities, both in Trinidad and Tobago and in Scotland, for reports of indiscipline.
Now, in his role as coach, he stress that players should find the right balance between their activities off and on the field.
“There is time to enjoy your life and there is also time to work hard and prepare yourself to do well for the country,” he pointed out. “If we can get them to understand and follow that balance, then there’s not a problem.
“I’ve always lived my life a certain way and I think there’s no point in working hard if you cannot have fun,” he continued. “I think the boys are going to do well for Trinidad and Tobago and they want to win games and get to the World Cup. It must be an enjoyable process.” Coaches tend to attract criticism from all quarters, and Latapy made it clear that “the national team belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and everybody deserves to have their opinions.
“What I would prefer is that the criticism is constructive, that could help the team. I think that helps Trinidad and Tobago in general,” he said. “My philosophy and experience in football, I think you have to do what you believe in and, hopefully, that would be good enough to see you through.”
His long-term aspiration is to become a full-time coach of the Trinidad and Tobago squad.
“That is one of the reasons why I’m involved right now,” he said. “I’m leaving behind a situation that I’ve worked hard to develop.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and foundation here and I’m leaving it behind because I have a dream and I believe that Trinidad and Tobago can qualify,” he ended.