Latouchent: from mean streets to County set

FOR young Rosario Latouchent, Ross County’s exotically-named new recruit, even a trip to the corner shop these days represents a magical mystery tour.

Rosario Latouchent. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Scottish football, in the coming season, promises to be a complete step into the unknown.

The 18-year-old former SM Caen wing-back is, perhaps understandably, experiencing a degree of culture-shock as he settles into the leafy surrounds of his new Dingwall digs.

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After all, the son of a Martinique father and Mauritian mother grew up amid the concrete sprawl of notoriously tough, impoverished Sarcelles in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of northern Paris.

Crime, squalor and periodic riots have blighted Sarcelles but, luckily for Latouchent, he had strong family base behind him and talent in his toes. The proximity of the hard-working minor club AAS Sarcelles also helped.

Latouchent prospered and his progress through his early teens was such that he was on the radar of French big guns Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Nantes and Rennes, as well as the French Football Federation’s elite Clairefontaine Academy.

On parental advice, though, he plumped for lesser luminaries in SM Caen, where it was felt his ability could rise to the fore more rapidly.

Ross County have assembled a cosmopolitan squad this summer featuring Dutch, Belgian, French, Slovakian and Slovenian signings as well as Irish, English and Scots.

None, though, are likely to have undergone quite the shift in lifestyle and backdrop of Latouchent, who, even in Caen, lived in a Lower Normandy city region of more than 400,000 people.

After five years at Caen, Latouchent had hit the glass ceiling below the first team and was looking for a new challenge. Scotland beckoned, unexpectedly, via his agent and a deal was completed on Wednesday last week.

With team-mate Yoann Arquin acting as translator, young Latouchent gave a flavour of a bewildering but exciting change in his circumstances.

He said: “I grew up in Sarcelles and, yes, it is a tough area but it was just home to me and my family. A lot of good young footballers have come through the club and progressed in France.

“I played within the Sarcelles set-up when I was young and after that I moved to Caen where I’ve been for the past five years.

“I like the town Ross County play in – Dingwall – very much, but it is an understatement to say it is very different to what I have been used to in my childhood!

“Everything is new to me, from the food to the shops to the language and lifestyle.

“It is a little bit of a culture-shock, but in a good way. I’m happy to be here.”

Before the move to Caen, his family were never dazzled by that big-club interest. Latouchent said: “At the time, my family felt it was best I chose Caen because they had a reputation of treating young footballers well and I would have a chance to progress to the first team.

“Caen brought me the chance to join the international set-up where I won two caps for the French under 16 team, which allowed me to see the level I had to aspire to.”

Although the second last of 12 pre-season signings at County, Latouchent has had roughly a month to get his bearings in such Highland outposts as Wick, Rothes and Elgin.

He stressed: “I have been impressed by the players here. There is a lot of good ability in the squad and the atmosphere about the club is very positive and friendly.

“Now I just need to keep learning, adapting to a different style of football in Scotland. That will come, hopefully, as I play matches here.

“French football, you could say, is more technical, tactical, perhaps than in Scotland but I am settling into the style the manager wants us to play.”

Arquin, for his part, is happy to take his young countryman under his wing after his first venture beyond French borders.

The Martinique international said: “On the pitch, I talk to him a lot to help him with the language barrier and, off it, I help as much as possible.

“He has had his agent here, too, but he is a clever person and very switched on for one so young.

“The good thing for Ross County is he is a very good, promising player. He has rough edges but he has real talent.”

Kicking off against St Johnstone today, County approach their third top-flight season knowing they will thrive if they can stretch the form of the second half of last season throughout the campaign. In both Premiership seasons, the January transfer window has been a time of emergency squad restructuring but manager Derek Adams feels solid foundations have been laid this summer. He said: “We’re delighted with the acquisitions we’ve made. We’ve got 11 players here from last season and ten new players signed, while Filip Kiss and Graham Carey have now re-signed from last season.

“In the squad we’ve got good options throughout the team and a good variety of attributes.

“We’ve got pace and we’ve got players that can score goals. We’ve got height, strength and technical ability, as well as youth and experience.

“When you look to build a squad, these are the things you look for so I’m very content.

“It’s hard every season in the Scottish top league, but I think all the teams outwith Celtic will be looking to do the same thing and finish as high up as they can. It’s going to be a competitive league again this year.

“For the past two seasons, we’ve finished above Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Hibernian and Hearts, so we can only be delighted at that.

“If we just keep on going and progressing, and make sure we get the new players bedded in, we’ll do well.”