JOHN Hughes hopes to be reunited with his old Hibernian team-mate Russell Latapy by tempting the former Trinidad and Tobago international to Inverness to become his assistant manager.
Latapy, who also played for Hughes during his time in charge of Falkirk, is currently in a coaching post in Portugal with Boavista, but the Inverness manager is hopeful he can persuade him to return to Scotland to be his No 2.
“Russell is my number one target,” Hughes told BBC Scotland. “He is currently working at Boavista in Portugal but is in Scotland at the moment doing his pro licence.”
Hughes has already met with Latapy this month and is confident he can bring him to the Highlands in time for Caley Thistle’s league match at home to Aberdeen next weekend.
Hughes added: “He is a great guy with great experience and, if he can pass that on to the players here at Inverness, it would be fantastic. I’m hopeful of having him with us sometime next week, but he is involved at Boavista at the moment and he’d want to do things the proper way there before joining us.”
Latapy and Hughes played together at Easter Road when Alex McLeish led Hibs to the First Division title in 1998/99 following their relegation from the top flight the previous season. Hughes was freed by the club at the end of that campaign, but Latapy went on to become a fans’ favourite in two further years at Hibs before he was controversially sacked by the club following a drink driving incident two weeks before the 2001 Scottish Cup final.
He went on to play for Rangers, Dundee United and Falkirk, before a spell back in his homeland then a short-lived stint at East of Scotland side Edinburgh City.
Hughes will come face to face this weekend with another former team-mate who he holds in high esteem, Jackie McNamara, when Dundee United are the visitors to the Caledonian Stadium on Sunday.
They share the special, lasting bond of team-mates who signed on the same day and lived the dream at Celtic. There were times when Hughes badly wanted to kick McNamara at the Barrowfield training ground, but neither will falter in mutual respect and admiration on Sunday.
Hughes, a late developer, joined Celtic from Falkirk for a year in 1995 for £38,000 and posed for the pictures that summer’s day with younger cohort McNamara, a fellow Tommy Burns recruit from Dunfermline.
As Caley Thistle and United go under the television lights on Sunday, no quarter will be given, but there is genuine respect proffered to his old pal by Hughes. “Jackie and I signed for Celtic on the same day,” Hughes said. “So I played with him and Simon [Donnelly] there and then with Darren [Jackson] at Hibs. Jackie and Simon used to nutmeg me in training every single day – they used to take turns about tormenting me. I would have kicked them but I couldn’t get near them.
“Although Jackie was right-back, he could play right wing. He and Simon got on great. It took me a while to settle at Celtic but Jackie just arrived and off he went. He was a really good footballer, technically, and he’s doing a great job as manager. Jackie is as tough as old boots. He’s a pleasant guy but if he has something to say then he’ll say it. He’s a hardy boy on the pitch – a tough cookie – and he’ll put that into his dressing room. He’ll do things his own way because he’s also a clever guy. He brought in David Goodwillie on loan – a big-name signing – but has been man enough to say you have to work for your place and do the work. The guy on form in the team stays in. It probably wasn’t the greatest loan for Goodie but shows you what Jackie is all about. He’s a great man for his beliefs and it doesn’t matter who you are if you’re doing the business he’ll stick by you.”
Hughes’ bond with McNamara deepened as he entered management and the Scotland international entered his career swansong. “I took Jackie to Falkirk as well. He played for me,” Hughes recalled. “He arrived at the same time as Neil McCann and, right from the off, you could see their attitude and enthusiasm.
“I remember, on the first day, Jackie was away up on the right-hand side of the pitch in training in an 8-a-side game. He lost the ball but he made a 50-yard run to get back and put a tackle in. That summed him up. That was him showing the other lads at Falkirk what he was all about. You can’t buy that – it was him showing everyone at Falkirk he would do a shift. He’s a clever boy and demands the best from people around him.”