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Russell Latapy’s business manager, Wayne Mandeville, has hit back at Pro League champions Central FC for their “cowardly” attack on the Trinidad and Tobago football icon, as both parties continue to trade words in a furore that started with a critical statement aimed at Sport Minister Darryl Smith.

Last Friday, Central managing director Brent Sancho and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams knocked Smith for his failure to publicly acknowledge the club’s accomplishments, after their third successive Pro League title—an unprecedented feat—and back to back Caribbean club trophies.

Sancho was Smith’s predecessor as Sport Minister for the UNC-led People’s Partnership Government, which was replaced by the PNM on 7 September 2015.

Within a day of Central’s opening salvo, Williams backed down from his stance and said, via the TTFA website, that he had been used by the club for its own ends. Despite the retraction, Latapy blasted the talented goalkeeper for his initial statement and suggested that Williams had not done enough to demand recognition.

It prompted a fierce response from Central today in an unsigned release, which referred to Latapy’s statement as “shameful” and questioned his motives for speaking on the issue at all. The club statement further referred to Latapy as “one of [the TTFA’s] junior coaches.”

But Mandeville said Central were speaking with a lack of credibility once they got into the business of issuing unsigned press statements.

“It is a cowardly act for any organisation to issue a public statement or position on an issue with the express objective of attempting to devalue one’s creditability and accomplishments,” Mandeville told Wired868, “and not have the testicular fortitude nor courage to affix a name at the end of the release.

“It is therefore apparent that this person and/or organisation should not be taken with one iota of seriousness. Clearly there is a lack of business acumen, emotional intelligence, structure, methodology and creditability concerns as to their conduct.

“If you are going to put out a release, then sign it. If I send out a letter and don’t sign it, it has no value. And you can quote me on that.”

Mandeville said Latapy’s initial criticism of Williams was meant to be a public defence of the Sport Minister, whose office he felt had been disrespected by the club and the player.

And he accused Central of adding to their perceived inappropriate behaviour by now training their guns on the “Little Magician.”

“They are attempting to belittle Russell by talking about him as a junior coach,” said Mandeville, “because he has accomplished things as an assistant coach in the Scotland Premier League and he was also a former national coach.

“They might say he is coaching the junior teams now but that is showing a disrespect for his accomplishments and trying to look down on him. Russell’s accomplishments are globally recognised and documented for the world to see and continue to appreciate.”

But was Latapy also disrespectful when he referred to the 32-year-old Williams as “kid” and downplayed the Central custodian’s accomplishments?

Mandeville said Latapy’s own cutting remarks were in reference to Williams’ behaviour and not aimed personally at the Soca Warriors star.

“I think Russell is referring to his behaviour there and there is also a run up to that with his behaviour with [ex-National Senior Team medic Dr Terrence] Babwah,” said Mandeville. “How can Jan-Michael publicly chastise Babwah by saying the players don’t want him working with them? He was also one of the players who were behind the problems with [former National Senior Team head coach] Stephen [Hart] while Russell fully supported Stephen.

“But the fact is he is a kid compared to Russell; and what Russell accomplished, he has not yet accomplished. If you want to line up accomplishments, it is chalk and cheese.”

His victims here are former England captain Paul Ince (left) and France World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff.
Latapy won league titles in Portugal and Scotland with FC Porto and Glasgow Rangers respectively and played UEFA Champions League football with both teams. He is also a Trinidad and Tobago Hall of Fame athlete and represented the Warriors at the Germany 2006 World Cup, alongside Sancho.

Was there any bad blood between Latapy and Williams—who he coached before at National Senior Team level—or Sancho?

Is there any bad blood between Latapy and Sancho or Jan-Michael?

“That’s a good question,” said Mandeville. “I would say there is no issue with Jan-Michael from Russell’s perspective.”

But is there any animosity between Latapy and Sancho?

“Tell me what you think,” said Mandeville.