star Russell latapy reveals all about his life of excess and the girlfriend
whos sticking by him. As the man closest to football hell raiser
Dwight Yorke, Russells booze-fuelled party lifestyle is the stuff
caribbean football ace, who has bedded endless beauties in a life of
soccer excess, today reveals the truth behind his life outside football.
Katrina Tweedie Exclusive
with his trademark baseball cap on back to front, Russell Latapy sat
shame-faced behind the wheel of his Volkswagen Beetle.
blown it and he knew it. After a night on the town with best friend
Dwight Yorke, he was weaving all over the road, three times over the
legal limit, when the police stopped his car.
however, only marked the beginning of the repercussions of yet another
of his infamous wild nights.
it has cast a shadow over his career ever since, almost losing him the
people he loves most.
wish things had worked out differently. I still think I let a lot of
people down, admits Russell.
drink-driving in May 2001 was two days before a crunch match with rivals
Hearts and for his boss at Hibs, Alex McLeish, it was the final straw.
was prepared to tolerate his star players bad behaviour so long
as he kept scoring outrageous goals like the one which rounded off a
previous 6-2 thumping of Hearts and so, of course, were the fans.
with the maverick midfielders shame captured luridly all over
the front pages, he had to go. Even worse, he was denied a place in
the Cup Final against Celtic three weeks later and fans are still bitter
after losing, blaming Russell who let them down.
not that I went off the rails. Obviously at times you do things youre
not supposed to, he says now.
was with Dwight at a club and at 11 oclock we were going home.
I only lived a quarter-of-a-mile away and I thought I could get away
with it, which was very stupid.
Friday night and he wasnt playing until Sunday. He was caught
drink-driving and, to make matters worse, there were two blondes in
the back of the car, neither of whom was Russells Portuguese girlfriend
of eight years,
explanations to Paula and his nine-year-old son Joao were almost as
painful as the apologies to dismayed and hurt Hibs fans.
Russell believes McLeish had other motives for ditching him from the
It was always going to be difficult to beat Celtic. If we didnt
win, people would say, and they still do, that it was my fault. It was
the easy option for Alex. I was like a deflector.
of lying low, Russell says: I buggered off to Portugal for a couple
of weeks and went back on the bevvy. On the day of the final I was in
Portugal with Paula and a few mates, on the piss. I didnt watch
the Cup Final that year. I was in a holiday party mood.
fans might find it strange that I could switch off so easily, but you
have to. When you represent a club you put all your energy into doing
your job, so if you are not going to be involved, its hard. To
stop yourself being bitter and sad, you have to get into a party mood.
players careers could have been in tatters but Russell, credited
with having magic in his boots had lifted a struggling Hibs
team and soon found himself signed to Rangers. At 32, it was a dream
come true until Alex McLeish came along.
To be fair to Alex, I didnt make his job easy. I train hard
but there were days when I went into the club after a hard night
out with red eyes.
several run-ins, the inevitable happened. Russell had been out on Hogmanay
and arrived for training with red-rimmed, bleary eyes.
Years Day, McLeish called Russell into his office and told him
his contract would not be renewed. It was an ignominious start to the
Russell remains defiant. I dont regret that night.You do
things that you probably wish youd done differently, but theres
no point in regrets.
again, he found himself calling agent John Viola to tell him to look
for a new club. Yet he remains surprisingly charitable about Alex McLeish
He says: Alex gave me the opportunity to play in Scotland. Whatever
he did was done in the best interest of the club. I dont think
he did anything to hurt me on purpose. I wouldnt pass him on the
street, but equally I wouldnt suggest we go for a drink. But for
me theres no reason to be bitter.
his apparent nonchalance, Russell, 34, is no fool.
that too many people were getting fed up with his antics and he knew
Rangers was his last big pay-day so he jumped at the chance to play
for Dundee United, who have signed him until the end of the season.
back home in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Russell can do no wrong. As the
middle of five brothers brought up by mum Joan, Russell was encouraged
to follow his football dreams.
10, he joined the nations youth development programme, where he
met Dwight Yorke and Brian Lara.
been playing football ever since I can remember, ever since I could
walk, he says.
he was plucked from Trinidads youth team for his nations
senior squad. Today, a school has been named in Russells honour
and he funds a sports foundation for children on the Caribbean island.
Joan says: Russells father left when he was two and I encouraged
him to follow his ambitions. Im so glad for him.
long he lasts at Dundee Utd, Russell will retire a rich man to Portugal,
where he plans to buy a restaurant.
here, fans will remember his great goals and forgive him for enjoying
the perks that came with his talent.