Tue, Jul


Russell LatapySo Russell Latapy's former teammates think he should stop playing and somehow erase the indiscretions of his past.

His employer, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) or-if you prefer-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, felt it necessary to reveal that he lacks "total confidence" in his appointee and could remove Latapy at any time.

And the media believe the coaching change is as useful to the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

At least United States' pop star Britney Spears enjoyed 55 hours of marital bliss with childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander before their infamous annulment.

Latapy had less than 24 hours before his honeymoon was spoiled-and he has not even named his first squad yet!

Coaches are hired to be fired. But do we not at least wait for them to lose a few games before we start writing their obituary?

Is Latapy unlikely to get the "Soca Warriors" to South Africa? Yes. But then so is every other coach.

He is leading Trinidad and Tobago, after all, not Brazil, Italy or Germany.

So the very notion that Latapy has two games to prove himself against Costa Rica and Mexico-both virtually assured of a World Cup spot before the first ball was kicked-is, in a word, absurd.

His predecessor, Francisco Maturana, survived competitive defeats to Bermuda and Grenada.

But Latapy, within the first month of his tenure, must produce a win against two nations Trinidad and Tobago have not defeated in almost nine years or fall on his sword?

The security must be very lax at the asylum these days.

Latapy's former coach, Everald "Gally" Cummings, and ex-teammates, Anthony Rougier, Clayton "JB" Morris and Brian Williams made very insightful comments on the appointment of the "Little Magician".

I can also conclusively say that all four men, despite any perceived negative connotations in their responses, are huge fans of the gifted player.

Rougier and company are not cheerleaders.

They are football men who gave honest opinions that were of great benefit to the Express readers-including myself.

Latapy's past is as chequered as his resume is thin. There is never a guarantee of success in sport but the odds are lowered with a rookie coach and they are worse still when his charges are not world-beaters.

So some skepticism is understandable about Latapy's ability to address problems that overwhelmed Maturana, a two-time World Cup coach, and scores of previous bosses.

But, in spite of his recent involvement with the Warriors, it is largely a mess that Latapy inherited rather than created and he deserves the support of his nation to set it right.

In short, if he fails then we all fail.

And that is why the least helpful pronouncement came from Warner (it is notable but not surprising that the non-executive TTFF member was the only person to comment on Latapy's appointment while president Oliver Camps and general secretary Richard Groden maintained their traditional silence).

We would take Warner at his word that Latapy will have every resource at his disposal, even if it means recruiting help from "the Jabloteh coach"-the controversial but successful, in local circles at least, former England World Cup player Terry Fenwick-or summoning out-of-favour players like Cyd Gray, Aurtis Whitley, Brent Sancho or Avery John, if he deems them necessary.

But Warner, who is renowned for almost blind optimism where the future of the national team is concerned, could surely have done better than "we shall take it from match to match and see what happens".

Latapy, before so much as his first training session, deserves better from his employers at least.

Footballers are essentially selfish people. No one dreams about being an unused substitute on a great team.

They all want medals but they want to play too and, preferably, have fun while they are at it.

It is a difficult balancing act for any coach to keep an 18-man squad focused and positive for that very reason.

The last thing a coach needs is for players to get it into their heads that they could get rid of the "gaffer" with a single sub-par performance.

How does Latapy instill a healthy fear into Keon Daniel, let alone Kenwyne Jones, when he is openly viewed as expendable?

What motivation is there for a player to dig deep when he thinks he will be trying to impress a new coach anyway in a matter of months or even weeks?

Warner should have known better. After all, he was part of the TSTT-sponsored Sport Symposium where former West Indies cricket great Brian Lara, who is Latapy's close friend, complained about the immense psychological pressure he endured as West Indies captain when the Cricket Board openly revealed that he was "on probation".

Hopefully, Latapy's charm and impressive record as a player, which outweighs his negative headlines, can go a long way in offsetting the cons of his fledgling coaching career.

Perhaps Warner too would offer a more meaningful vote of confidence in the near future.

Latapy might not be the guy to rescue Trinidad and Tobago's football. But he is what we have got and we must make the most of it.

At the very least, let us wait to discover Latapy's philosophy before we criticise it.

Even Jason Alexander shared two breakfasts with Britney Spears before he was served papers for separation.