Tue, Jan


Every club can boast an impressive array or pennants, silver salvers, pieces of crystal and so on, gifted by an opposing team to either mark a notable game or a significant milestone in their history.

Some, however, can be a little bit quirky such as the steel drum, resting in a leather case emblazoned with the national flag, presented to then manager Alex McLeish on behalf of the club as Hibs marked the new millennium with a winter tour of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad, of course, is not only the home to calypso music but Russell Latapy, the “little magician” who lit up Scottish football having arrived on these shores as a virtual unknown despite playing for Bobby Robson’s Porto in Portugal, helping them to back-to-back championships while becoming the first Trinidadian to play in the Champions League.

McLeish was tipped off as to Latapy’s availability by Tony Rougier, an international team-mate who was with Hibs at the time, and it took him only minutes of a “bounce game” at Brechin to realise what he had.

Latapy quickly became a firm favourite of the fans with his dazzling skills. Quick feet, a turn of pace and an eye for a goal helped him win the First Division player of the year in his first season in Edinburgh.

However, as big a star as he was to become in the Capital, his own team-mates didn’t realise just how huge a figure he was back in the Caribbean until they were whisked away to the VIP lounge when their plane touched down at Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport.

Awaiting them was a full steel band with a specially composed song.

Hibs, thanks to Latapy, a close friend of West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara who would later visit Easter Road, and Manchester United’s Dwight Yorke, were feted wherever they went while the 200-strong green and white army, including author Irvine Welsh, which had made the journey proved a huge hit with the locals.

The supporters based themselves on the more tourist friendly Tobago, a 12-minute flight from Trinidad, staying in a beachside, all-inclusive hotel where, legend has it, a month’s supply of beer disappeared on the first night.

Sadly, one of their number drowned after falling off a jet ski at picturesque Pigeon Point, a tragedy which obviously cast a shadow over the rest of the trip.

Latapy, who played more than 100 times for his country, underlined his place in the bosom of the Hibs support, scoring the sixth goal as he and his team-mates humbled Capital rivals Hearts 6-2 later that year only for the party-loving midfielder to see his Easter Road career end after he went out on the town with Yorke only 48 hours before a later derby, an action which saw him thrown out by McLeish.