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LATAPY Russell

08 June, 2006

LATAPY Russell from Trinidad & tobago.Diminutive and dreadlocked, Latapy possesses tremendous vision, impressive dribbling skills and terrific composure in possession, and all of these attributes were prominent in his prompting of the teamís attackers dur

Name:  LATAPY Russell

Date of birth:   2 August 1968

Height:  183 cm

Weight:  76 kg

Position:  Forward

Current Club:  Falkirk (SCO)

Int'l Goals:   28 (as of 4-Jun-2006)

Int'l Caps:  66 (as of 4-Jun-2006)

First Int'l Cap:  Trinidad & Tobago v. Honduras (30-Oct-1988)

Detail:  When Trinidad and Tobago were struggling through the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, it was clear that something was missing. As it transpired, all that was needed was a phone-call from Dwight Yorke to his old pal Russell Latapy in Scotland to complete the jigsaw Leo Beenhakker was painstakingly attempting to assemble.

He might be the ripe old age of 37, but, by returning to the international fold, Latapy provided the spark required to reignite T&T’s faltering bid to reach their first-ever FIFA World Cup finals. The former Glasgow Rangers midfielder, still in Scotland as a player-coach with Premier League side Falkirk, operates behind Stern John and Yorke in a playmaking role which allows him the freedom to drift into space, collect the ball, and pick his pass.

Previously, he had twice refused a return to the international scene, but Yorke’s insistence that ‘this could be the year’ proved persuasive and the midfielder, who had been left heart-broken by the team’s narrow failure to qualify for Italia 90, once again dared to dream. “Playing at a World Cup would be the crowning glory in my career,” he reflected on the day of his return.

Diminutive and dreadlocked, Latapy possesses tremendous vision, impressive dribbling skills and terrific composure in possession, and all of these attributes were prominent in his prompting of the team’s attackers during T&T’s qualifying run. He also succeeded in marking his international comeback last September by scoring in a decisive win against Guatemala, the Soca Warriors’ main rivals for a play-off place.

T&T’s Dutch coach Beenhakker certainly appreciates his playmaker’s worth and said of the veteran: “If you have two or three players on the pitch of the calibre of Latapy, you will win games.”

At his peak, Latapy was ranked among his nation’s favourite sons, but his failure to make an impact with the more illustrious clubs he played for – notably Porto and Rangers – saw his star eclipsed by that of Yorke. Latapy’s European odyssey began in 1994 with Porto, where he became the first Trinidadian to play in the UEFA Champions League. He spent two seasons there, then another two seasons with their neighbours Boavista, before moving to Hibernian in Scotland in 1998, where he proceeded to produce the best football of his career.

So impressive was the little midfielder for Hibs that Scotland’s two football heavyweights, Celtic and Rangers, entered into a slugging match for his signature, with Rangers winning out. Latapy, however, featured only intermittently at Ibrox and also struggled to impress during a subsequent spell at Dundee United that preceded his current stint with Falkirk.

His international career now stretches over three decades since his debut in 1988 and his importance to Trinidadian football has been such that he has won the Footballer of the Year award on four separate occasions (1983, 1985, 1989 and 1996).

“His return has been very, very important for us,” said Stern John, T&T’s top scorer and the man who’s arguably benefited most from Latapy’s creative skills. “Russell can not only create chances, but he can score goals as well, so it is no surprise that the team have been doing better since he has come back.”

The whole of Trinidad and Tobago will be hoping that the man known in his homeland as ‘The little magician’ will have a few more tricks up his sleeve when the Soca Warriors step on to the world stage in June.

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