Former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and current ESPN football pundit Shaka Hislop believes that local football stands to benefit tremendously from the services of Russell Latapy as head coach of the National Under 17 team and his involvement with the development of the other youth teams over the two-year period he has agreed to serve the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.
Hislop lauded the appointment of Latapy by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, saying that he thinks the “Little Magician” has returned to the national set up at the appropriate time.
“I’ve known Russell for a long time. We both played way back in the late 70s early 80s on the under 10 national side I’ve been part of Russell’s football career certainly early on then in Europe and then the national team.
“Russell, as still being one the most talented players we have ever produced, I still believed his football IQ is his greatest asset and that was on display throughout his career representing the red, white and black,” Hislop said.
“He was able to bring that football IQ, one developed over the years and nurtured through time in Europe, playing in Jamaica, around the Caribbean and representing the national team and he was able to bring that back for the senior team not too long ago in what was , I’m sure Russell won’t mind me saying, a bit of a disappointing spell. I felt it came a bit too early for Russell in his managerial career. But he would have taken that experience, taken the mistakes made, taken the things he got right and learned from it and when you have somebody with the IQ of Russell, those lessons can prove to be invaluable in the long term.”
“It’s an opportunity now that is very exciting for a number of reasons. I think it’s the right time to get Russell back into the coaching set up. I think he would have learned more and is a better coach now than when he would have taken the senior team a few years ago. I can only imagine that as a 15 or 16 year-old, for me if I were at that level, playing under 16 football, a player with his talent and experience is exactly the kind of person I would have wanted to be showing me what needs to be done to make it not just at the under 17 level but also at the senior team level,” Hislop added.
The former Newcastle and West Ham United custodian went on to say that Latapy’s role is much greater than trying to qualify the Under 17 team to the 2017 FIFA Under 17 World Cup in India.
”Long term I think Russell’s talent and focus should be on developing these players to best serve the national senior team when they make that step up, giving them the tools both in terms of nurturing their skills and applications and their mentality and what it will take from them psychologically to make that jump. Short term success isn’t going to be what defines Russell Latapy as a coach. At the same time, I understand in this game you are judged by what you bring short term and ultimately if he does have a number of short term success that will prove to be the stepping stone for Russell to succeed to the senior team again as a head coach.
“I hope that comes and I hope it comes at a time when he is better prepared for it. Russell remains not only one of the brightest talents our country has ever produced but one of the highest footballing IQs of players our country has ever produced and that type of asset is invaluable in this game and I hope to see Russell involved in our set up for a long time to come,” Hislop concluded.