FORMER Hibernian and Falkirk cult hero Russell Latapy is currently back in his sunny homeland of Trinidad and Tobago awaiting word from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association on his future as an international coach.
But after making an appearance with Trinidad at the 2006 World Cup Finals, fortune didn’t follow three years later as TT finished in cellar spot in a six-team grouping as Latapy failed to lead the team forward after taking over from Colombian Francisco Maturana.
By the time Latapy took charge, the Trinidad and Tobago side was already struggling after five matches and needed a miracle with five more to go. A single win over El Salvador and a last match draw at home to Mexico was all Latapy managed but promising performances away in Mexico at the Azteca and at home to the United States left a lot of the Trinidadian faithful hopeful of a better tomorrow
“I know he was a great player and it was sad to see him leave this campaign to coach the team. We didn’t pull through this time but there were some promising things in the team when Russell took over,” David Roberts, a casual walker along the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain said last week.
When asked whether he felt Latapy could lead his team to a World Cup, David’s eyes lit up. “Yes Brazil 2014. We want to go there for sure. We don’t know if he’s the coach right now because the team is not playing any games but hopefully he will get the chance. He’s the best we have at the moment.”
There are reports, also in Scotland, that the question lingering on the lips of many Trinidad fans is whether their “Little Magician” will get a new extension to his contract which ran out at the end of last year’s World Cup qualifiers.
There was also a recent survey on the island’s national television channel TV6, asking whether Latapy should be given a fair chance to lead his country and the majority responded in favour of him.
Latapy’s old teammate and former manager at Falkirk, John Hughes is now the man in charge at Hibernian, where they both played together and at the moment Hibs are on a fine run, sitting right on the heels of Celtic and leaders Glasgow Rangers, another one of Latapy’s former employers.
It might be no secret to say that if Trinidad doesn’t want Latapy, then he would be happily welcomed back to Scotland and Hughes may be monitoring his situation.
In the meantime, while we couldn’t get hold of the wee man in his Port-of-Spain backyard, we were told he’s been in Trinidad for some time waiting for a call from FIFA chief whip Jack Warner, the man also at the helm of the Trinidad FA.
Warner, it is understood, could be waiting for some assistance from the Government of Trinidad and business supporters to help fund the national team’s drive for Brazil 2014 and Latapy’s contract.
The country’s largest communications network bmobile, sponsors of the Soca Warriors, we understand, also supported Latapy during the 2006 World Cup journey and two of Trinidad’s other favourite sons Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke in the not too recent past.
So while we continue to keep a close eye on Latapy’s whereabouts, we found these comments from him made last year when asked about his coaching idols and his methods with Trinidad. We leave you with them.
“I’ve been blessed to have had many great coaches in my life. When I was a young man, Jean Lillywhite taught me the basics of the game and, for that, he would have to be a great influence. But, later, as a professional I must say that Bobby Robson had a massive influence on me.
At the top pro level, he is the one for me, a true legend.
“It’s true, there’s not a lot of distance there. I was a player, and now I’m the coach. I think it might help me in the long run, because it gives me two points of view. I can see the game in training like a player and then from a different perspective as the coach on the sidelines. I think it’s a positive thing.”