BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Russell Latapy has claimed black coaches are not afforded the same opportunities as their white counter-parts in Scotland and fears he will be forced to give up his dream of a management career in this country.
Latapy took the decision to leave his role as assistant manager to John Hughes at Inverness Caledonian Thistle last July, with a burning desire to be his own man convincing him to depart the Highland club.
Coming off the back of a hugely successful campaign in which he helped Inverness win the Scottish Cup for the first time in their history, he believed he would secure a return to the dugout by the Festive period.
Despite making it to the interview stage, the affable Trinidadian is yet to be deemed the outstanding candidate for any job he has applied for.
Latapy is uncomfortable with the notion of chastising clubs or fellow coaches, and he is at pains to point out that he has not endured any overt racism in his bid to break into management in Scotland.
However it clearly grates with him that inexperienced coaches are landing roles he covets, given his pedigree, which includes spells as assistant manager of Trinidad & Tobago, Boavista and Inverness, as well as a CV as a player which counts turning out at the 2006 World Cup, playing in Europe and starring for Porto.
“Do I think there is still a block for black managers? Yes, I do,” Latapy said. “When I look in comparison – and I know it can be dangerous to compare situations – you see a lot of managers getting opportunities who have not proved themselves.
“Then you see a lot of black managers who have done a lot as players and in coaching who do not get that opportunity. I think there is still – unfortunately – the situation that black managers are not getting a fair chance compared to young, white managers.
“I made a conscious decision at the time to leave Inverness and to get into management. I was hoping that maybe by December I would be back in the game. I’ve had a few interviews and they thought that someone else was the right man for the job.”
Such conversations inevitably lead to the ‘Rooney Rule’, the scheme in place in American football since 2003 which mandates that National Football League owners must shortlist minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.
“I, like every other black manager in football, want to get an opportunity based on merit,” he continued. “Not based on a governing body saying an owner has to do it.
“I would much prefer to get a chance through a chairman of a club saying: ‘he is the right man for our club.’”
There could, of course, be other mitigating factor in Latapy’s search for a managerial post in Scottish football.
For all his talent thrilled supporters, he was notorious for his fun-loving lifestyle, troubling the showbiz pages of the national newspapers almost as often as he dominated the sports sections.
One such incident saw him miss the 2001 Scottish Cup final against Celtic as penance for missing training with Hibs as he recovered from a night of festivities with former Manchester United forward Dwight Yorke.
However, he is deadly serious about his coaching aspirations. His badges are in the bag and he spends much of his free time studying Portuguese giants Porto, where he remains highly regarded.
“Management is completely different to the playing side of the game and something I am very serious about,” he continued. “As a manager you have to try and concentrate on 16 different individuals, and that is very complicated – it is a continuous process and you have to keep learning.
“I spent a lot of time in Porto. I actually go and see them play every time they are at home and, in football, you have to keep up to date with everything that’s happening.”
Latapy, however, is certain that he will be in a managerial post by the summer.
“I need to work and football is my business,” Latapy added. “So if I don’t get the opportunity here I will have to take the next best opportunity. I have a fantastic offer to go back in the Caribbean. If, when that league is starting, I’m unemployed then I would definitely take up that opportunity.”
Until he secures a return to coaching, Latapy’s insights are restricted to media engagements and, at one such event, he has lauded the work done by Alan Stubbs at Hibs despite a wretched week which saw them lose consecutive Championship fixtures against Morton, Dumbarton and Alloa.
“I can only admire the job Alan has done,” he continued. “He went there in difficult circumstances, there were a lot of changes happening at the club. Yet right now they are playing wonderful football and they have got a lot of fans back. Long may it continue.
“Stubbsy’s a fantastic manager, he has taken a lot of young kids and tried to teach them the way he wants them to play, and they are getting results with it.
“You’re going to get knock-backs sometimes and they are going through a difficult period. That only makes you stronger.”
However, pressed for a prediction, Latapy notes “there’s something about Inverness and their never-say-die attitude that you have to fancy”. Indeed, he would not bet against them going all the way again and retaining the trophy. It would certainly prompt another almighty party on the team bus.
“My favourite memory would be the journey back up to Inverness on the bus,” he recalled from last season’s triumph. “It got a bit crazy on the way back up. It was even beyond my standards.”
And that’s saying something.
**Russell Latapy was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.**