Latapy ready to bid farewell to Scottish football as Caribbean homeland beckons
FALKIRK midfielder Russell Latapy will this week end over ten years in Scottish football when he finalises a full-time coaching post with Trinidad and Tobago.
Bairns manager John Hughes has given the 40-year-old his blessing to wave goodbye to the SPL and take up a permanent role as part of Francisco Maturana's technical staff, probably as assistant head coach.
Latapy flew to the Caribbean over the weekend and is ironing out the fine details of a move that will see him become an integral part of the Soca Warriors' bid to reach the World Cup in 2010.
Trinidad's final set of qualifiers in a six-team Concacaf group kicks off with an away clash against El Salvador on 11 February and ends with a home meeting with Mexico on 14 October.
Falkirk fans will be sad to see the player – dubbed the 'Little Magician' – depart after arriving at the club from Dundee United in June 2003 and helping the team become an established top-flight outfit.
Former Hibs manager Alex McLeish first brought Latapy to Scotland from Portuguese side Boavista in October 1998 and he helped the Easter Road club win the First Division championship that season, before a stint at Rangers followed en route to Tannadice and then Falkirk where his performances were key in helping the Bairns win promotion to the SPL at the end of the 2004–05 campaign.
It's now fitting that Latapy's five-and-a-half year spell at Falkirk – and a colourful decade in Scottish football – was honoured against Hibs on 29 November when the Bairns inducted him into their Hall of Fame before the 1-1 draw.
It is understood Falkirk will receive compensation from the Trinidad FA for Latapy's services as the veteran's playing contract at Westfield is not due to expire until the summer.
Hughes said: "I think Russell will be leaving us. Over the next few days he is away over to Trinidad and Tobago to tie up that coaching position and get it finalised. It's a full-time post. He'll be leaving.
"He has been a wonderful asset to this club and I can't speak highly enough of him.
"I'm sure our supporters will wish him all the best. They've many memories."
Hughes convinced Latapy to prolong his career into his 40s with Falkirk, and the 75-times capped midfielder went on to amass 167 league appearances for the club, scoring 24 goals, but the Bairns manager has used him only four times this term. His influence has been bigger off the park helping develop young players and coach the reserve team.
However, he has still made regular trips back to Trinidad to aid his nation's World Cup hopes, coming out of international retirement in October to inspire his country to the final round of qualifiers for South Africa in 2010.
He performed a dual role as player and assistant coach and scored in the 2-1 win over the USA that kept alive their qualification hopes, becoming the oldest scorer in qualifying history.
Latapy will now leave Westfield permanently, with Ross County-bound John Stewart also joining him through the Falkirk exit door in January.
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