Tue, Jul

Sorry to interrupt this protracted meeting of the Russell Latapy Mutual Admiration Society, but what the hell is going on here?
I know he is the "Little Magician" and one of our finest footballers ever. Still, you would think that people employed to provide critical analysis would not indulge in unabashed starry-eyed cheerleading as was the case when the new head coach of the senior national squad walked into the media conference at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, following Trinidad and Tobago's 3-2 loss to Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier last Saturday night.

A standing ovation? Even if it was deserved-which it wasn't, by the way -aren't professional journalists supposed to conduct themselves in an unbiased, dispassionate manner that permits measured assessment. Yet, in behaving like any old, face-painted flag-waver, they are inherently compromised, and their reporting on anything involving Latapy will be coloured by such obvious favouritism.

Anyway, we like it let's move on, especially as there's no room left on this bandwagon.

Almost all of the gushing optimism, following our fourth fixture in the final phase of the CONCACAF campaign, seems to have conveniently and disingenuously overlooked a few critical shortcomings that are likely to be exposed again tonight at the Azteca Stadium, especially with the Mexicans in an unusually desperate situation, following a third defeat in four games at the weekend.

Let's begin with the defence. Call it stationary or non-existent, it amounts to the same thing. Yet, Latapy expresses satisfaction with the overall team performance, and no one apparently presses him on how he could say such nonsense on the evidence of what transpired in Bacolet.

Rest assured that if Francisco Maturana had uttered anything like that through his ever-present interpreter, the Colombian would not have been allowed to get away with it unchallenged.

Okay, so the attacking play and host of chances created, not to mention the rarity of scoring twice against the Costa Ricans, are to be applauded and welcomed. However, it's like boasting about a flashy new sports car that goes from 0-100 kph in six seconds but doesn't have any brakes. You certainly look good zooming by on the highways and byways of the country, although the fact that you can't come to a controlled stop means that you create havoc, cause considerable damage and invariably kill yourself and several others along the way.

Given his lack of energy and mobility in midfield, Dwight Yorke had the best seat in the house that bears his name. The only thing missing from a proper all-inclusive ticket was a scantily-clad waitress bringing him a constant supply of drinks while the play continued to pass him by. Despite this, he is kept on the field by his long-standing compere from the first minute to the last while someone like Chris Birchall, who has proven before to have the pace and work-rate to spark some life into the overall effort, remains on the bench until 25 minutes from the final whistle.

A legacy maybe of Latapy himself being ignored by Leo Beenhakker until the dying minutes of T&T's final game at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany and the new head coach not wanting to diss his liming pardner, especially in front of thousands of Tobagonians, and at the Dwight Yorke Stadium to boot?

If so, then even as so many others seem to be in a delirious trance while the "Little Magician" gestures hypnotically, Latas would do well to take note that one of the first decisions made by Fabio Capello when he took over as England manager last year was to pointedly ignore the rising chorus of calls for David Beckham to be given the chance to play his 100th international, at least until the star boy had definitively proven his fitness.

But our latest bandwagon is already careening onward to the accompaniment of effusive praise, with so many observers too busy applauding to point out that the brakes-assuming that there are any-should be applied judiciously and firmly every now and then to ensure that we aren't left to pick up the pieces from another pile of footballing wreckage.

Speaking of bandwagon, where are the masses leaping on board Chris Gayle's version?

Hasn't the West Indies captain (a position he should no longer be burdened with after this tour is over) been true to his word, in that his pulverising of the Australians at The Oval five days ago when compared to listless, disinterested appearances in the Test and One-Dayers against England last month, essentially reinforced his own opinion that Twenty20 cricket is really what he prefers above all others?

Then there is the other bandwagon, the one that gathered speed on Sunday at Roland Garros after Roger Federer brushed aside Robin Soderling to claim his first French Open title and lift his tally of Grand Slam men's singles tennis titles to 14, equalling the record of Pete Sampras.

To see almost every renowned expert clambering over each other in their eagerness to hail the Swiss master as the "greatest ever", you would think that such a label is determined only by numerical superiority. Whatever happened to context, like Australian great Rod Laver completing the Grand Slam (all four majors in the same calendar year) in 1962 and after seven years of being ostracised as a professional in a supposedly amateur era, repeating this incredible feat in 1969 at the age of 31?

So many bandwagons. I bound to get a ride on one, if not Russell's.