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John Hughes dreaming of unearthing another Russell Latapy as Dunfermline boss recalls temptation to ‘smash’ former Hibs and Rangers ‘genius’

Hughes later coached Latapy at Falkirk
Hughes later coached Latapy at Falkirk

John Hughes has recalled the moment when he first laid eyes on mercurial magician Russell Latapy at Hibs — as he aims to unearth another diamond for Dunfermline.

With a fortnight until the transfer window opens, Hughes is already ‘spinning plates’ as he seeks to bolster the Pars’ ranks.

And he is keeping an open mind regarding whether those signings come from Scotland — or are wildcards like Latapy.

The talented Trinidadian arrived on trial at Easter Road in the summer of 1998 and boss Alex McLeish snapped him up after 45 MINUTES of a bounce game against Brechin.

Hughes was on the books of the Hibees at the time and would soon be tormented in training by the inimitable playmaker.

Latapy would go on to assist Hughes at Inverness

It is a pertinent comparison, given a ‘No.10’ who can unlock defences is top of his current wish-list.

Genius

“Football evolves constantly,” said Hughes. “It’s not a weekly thing; it’s not a daily thing — it’s hourly.

“You can put all the strategies in place but it changes constantly. The phone never stops and you are always hearing things.

“The best player I ever played with walked in as a trialist — Russell Latapy.

“I remember the day he walked in. All the boys had been playing a game at Brechin and they said, ‘wait until you see this guy!’

“We were only two minutes on the training pitch when he nutmegged me. I was going to smash him!

“Right foot; left foot; dipping the shoulder — you thought: this guy is a genius.

“If a player like that walked in [to Dunfermline] and I say, ‘we have no money’ and don’t sign him then you need strung up! You need to get it done.

“It might be a German who Thomas [Meggle, sporting director] knows. A guy who used to be a wonder-player but has just fallen away and we can revamp him. You just never know.”

Best deal

It should be noted that Hughes’ faded wunderkind is an entirely hypothetical prospect — for the moment.

Lest any Pars fans hit the internet looking for their new teutonic trequartista.

Nevertheless, it underlines that Dunfermline are leaving no stone unearthed in their search for reinforcements.

Allied with their need for an attacking midfielder, a winger, another combative box-to-box option and competition at left-back would seem to be areas in which the Pars are lacking.

Priority: Connolly

Hughes will also seek to extend Mark Connolly’s loan from Dundee United which expires on January 16 and move on any fringe players unhappy with their game-time.

“Thomas [Meggle] and I work very closely,” added Hughes. “We do not have loads of money to go and buy players. It is beg, borrow, duck and dive — but we are working hard.

“I think the boys need a hand and, short-term, hopefully we can get one or two experienced players within our price range and budget.

“It all comes down to trying to get the best deal for the club.”

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