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Inverness not missing a trick with Little Magician

When John Hughes, the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager, ushers his new assistant out on to the club's Fort George training base for the first time this morning, it is unlikely that he will be able to resist bringing a ball out with them.

Latapy was 43 when he played for Edinburgh City in a Scottish Cup tie against Irvine Meadow. Picture: SNS
Latapy was 43 when he played for Edinburgh City in a Scottish Cup tie against Irvine Meadow. Picture: SNS

Russell Latapy is still known as the "Little Magician" in Trinidad and Tobago, a moniker he earned for an arresting ability with a ball at his feet. Hughes will not want any of his players to miss a trick.

Now 45, Latapy has aged gracefully but his skills have not yet been put into retirement. They have simply been focused elsewhere - the former Hibernian and Rangers midfielder having been identified as the coach which Hughes wants alongside him in the Highlands. It is a partnership which has been weeks in the making but is only now reaching fruition as Latapy worked to secure his release from a coaching position with Boavista.

The former Trinidad and Tobago manager had also been embroiled in court action against the country's FA following his dismissal in 2011; a case which has since been settled out of court.

He is now able to relax into life in the Highlands alongside Hughes, whom he played alongside at both Hibs and later at Falkirk. Latapy would also have short spells at both Dundee United and Edinburgh City - a side he played for in a Scottish Cup tie against Irvine Meadow at the age of 43 - and Hughes has acknowledged that such a prolonged spell in Scottish football has diminished his friend's status in the game.

The Inverness manager was quick to address any misgivings anyone might have about his new assistant. "What does Russell bring? He will be a perfect part of the team here and fit right in to the dynamics of the club," said Hughes. "He is very clever on tactical work and his philosophy on how the game should be played.

"I've spoken to him about where we are as a club, and where we want to be. He totally understands that. He's just a fantastic character and a very approachable, humble guy. He's the sort who would give you the last penny in his pocket.

"He was a world-class footballer and, trust me, I don't say that lightly. People ask how could he be a world-class footballer when he played much of his football in Scotland. But, believe me, Russell was world class. To back that up, I watched a programme on Manchester United TV where Dwight Yorke named him in his all-time greatest team. He had Latapy in there before [Paul] Scholes and [David] Beckham, the lot of them - that's how good he was."

Latapy would make 79 appearances for his country and Hughes hopes that his players will revel in the chance to work with such a celebrated player. "He can work with the so-called technical players at the club and pass on wee bits and pieces, individually and collectively," added the former Hibs manager.

"If any kid here doesn't take the chance to learn from Russell then he's a fool. I can remember the young lads at Falkirk really taking to him and he has this great trick on him which Scott Arfield picked up and made part of his own game."

The Inverness manager is looking to pick up another forward himself before the end of the transfer window. "But I would still be happy with what we've got," he added.

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