Russell LatapySTART OF NEW ERA 

Newly-appointed head coach Russell Latapy has assured the people of Trinidad and Tobago that the national team will wear their colours with pride in their upcoming 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (June 6) and Mexico (June 10) and the Soca Warriors will be made aware that they play not just for themselves, but also an expectant nation.
Formerly the assistant coach/player with the national squad, Latapy held his first press conference yesterday at the CONCACAF office in Port of Spain since being promoted to head coach following the resignation of Colombian Francisco Maturana on April 8.

And the man fondly known as "The Little Magician" hinted that football fans may still see him on the field.

"I would get myself as fit as possible and then the best team will be on the park," he declared. "I would prefer not to play, but if I need to play, like I've done for the past 30 years to help support and make the national team stronger, that is not going to stop now because I am the coach.

"This appointment caters for a new era in my football life and it is with tremendous patriotism, enthusiasm, determination and the support of my family and friends that I accept this appointment," said Latapy. "I eagerly look forward to the challenge with the understanding that the journey ahead will not be a walk in the park to say the least.

"It is with this understanding that I will strategically prepare for success by surrounding myself with the knowledge, skill, experience and expertise as I trek forward on this pathway.

"This also extends to assuring the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago that the team would wear the colours with pride, knowing that they not only represent themselves but 1.3 million, and now more than ever I am calling for your support and commitment."

Latapy begins preparations on Wednesday with the local contingent of the national team.

T&T, with two points from three games, are currently last in the group of six CONCACAF teams attempting to qualify for the 2010 World Cup

The 40-year-old former Porto and Glasgow Rangers midfielder also wants ten days to train with his squad in Tobago, before playing Costa Rica at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, and then travelling to Mexico for another qualifier four days later.

Latapy also dismissed the argument that playing before a small crowd in Tobago would put his team at a disadvantage. He said, instead, he wants to revive the fighting spirit within the Soca Warriors and that teams coming to Trinidad and Tobago must know they face a tough test, regardless of what stadium they play in.

"To qualify from competitions like this you need to win your home games. We have a very important game (against Costa Rica) at home and we are going to work very hard to get the team organised and get them playing at international standard. If we can get a victory at home it will put us right back in the competition."

Latapy said his plans are simply to put the best possible team on the pitch and try to win the game. He said he had knowledge of all the players who had represented T&T in the last two years and it would not be necessary to be looking for the best individual players, but those that can form the best team.

"In preparation for the next two World Cup qualifiers in early June against Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively, I will be reviewing the current pool of players and liaising with the coaches of the local professional and semi-professional teams. Additionally, we are starting out preparations by working on...the technical, tactical and physical part of the game for the immediate task ahead.

"I would like to publicly proclaim that I intend to give nothing less than my absolute best to ensure in the first instance that the short-term goals of this quest for qualification for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa are achieved and, in the second instance, that the long-term goals of improving our local, regional, and international footballing success are completely achieved."
Latas to begin work Wednesday.
...Little Magician prefers not to play
By: Nigel Simon (T&T Guardian).

New Soca Warriors head coach, former player Russell Latapy, will begin preparing a local squad for the June 6 Concacaf World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica scheduled for Wednesday. This was announced by 40-year-old Latapy yesterday in his first press conference with the local media at the Concacaf Office, Edward Street, Port-of-Spain. Latapy took over the reins as coach of the team after Colombian Francisco Maturana resigned on April 8—fifteen months after being appointed and three matches into the Concacaf Final Round World Cup 2010 qualifiers. T&T Under-20 coach, Yugoslav-born Zoran Vranes has been named as his assistant.

While acknowledging his new role as coach, Latapy noted that if it was up to him he would rather not play while he is coach. “I will get myself as fit as possible and if needed I will be available to do whatever is needed to help the team, but I will prefer not to play if given the option,” Latapy said. Latapy stated that the role of T&T coach is a new era in his life of football and he intended to give nothing less than his best, to ensure that the short-term goal of qualification for South Africa 2010 was achieved and secondly, that the long-term goal of improving our local, regional and international footballing successes are competently achieved. “My thing is that I have my ideas on how I would like the team to play and I will impact that on the players. If that happens it will not matter where or who we play because we will be able to play a certain way and represent the country the way it needs to be represented, “ said Latapy.

“I think we have a lot of talented players on the national team and we have seen that over the years. We have enough quality but its getting them to work as a unit...that is my job. A former reserve coach for Falkirk in Scotland, the T&T coach said his immediate priority was preparing the team for the World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (June 6) and Mexico (June 10). “To qualify in a tournament like this you have to win your home games and we are going to work as hard as we can to get the best team prepared in a way that they will play at an international standard to get the victory at home which will put us back in contention. “We are in a situation where we need to start picking up points, but in terms of pressure I don’t know any football manager who is not under pressure. If we win our remaining home matches we will get 12 points and to qualify you need to win your home matches and get what you can in the away games,” Latapy said.

In terms of national players’ selection, Latapy explained that along with the technical staff, he would review the current pool of players, and once selected they will begin working on the players’ technical, tactical and physical preparation for the immediate task ahead. “I already have a list of the players who have represented T&T over the past couple of years, however, no one is guaranteed a spot on the team at the same time. “So everybody has to play for their pick. The players must have the understanding that for me it’s a blank board and everyone has to put their name there by performance on the training pitch.” Latapy added, “My plan is to get the best possible team on the pitch to win the games and that may not necessarily mean the best players. With respect to his technical staff composition, Latapy said that just like the playing staff, the administrative staff should and would be based on the best men for the job whether they are local or foreign.