Five talking points:  What Scorpion head coach McKinstry should note

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The job as the national team head coach of the Gambia might be a personal challenge for Jonny, but how does the Gambia meet him halfway to achieve the success that Paul Put and Tom Saintfiet had? Listening and analyzing Jonny from the outside, I came to the conclusion that he is positive, determined to succeed, and has a know-how factor with a great personality.

 Jonny will bring about changes that will be effective in the long term, but the biggest question is how and where will he start? He might not please every pundit and player, but he must earn our trust very quickly as the one steering the wheel. The Gambia is winless in their last five matches, and that has taken a dig at the country’s FIFA ranking. 

With the AFCON 2025 qualifiers on the horizon, friendly matches must be arranged for Jonny to know more about his players and the system that he wants to use. The home-fortress factor is something very significant going forward in his two-year contract. Every country wants to play in front of its fans. Building the team around Musa Barrow and Yankuba Minteh? The coming weeks will unveil if Johnathan holds on to 80% of Tom Saintfiet’s squad or if there will be new-look scorpions.

 

1 Playing identity, will Jonny play attacking football, which has been the fans dream for the longest time? The Gambia have been very disciplined tactically. Tom struggled to have most of his players around due to injuries and logistics, which we hope won’t be the case with Jonny. The scorpions were very easy to predict in setup and formation; they sat deep and hit on the counter. They don’t go out to play; they leave you to play and deploy their arsenals in the last quarter of the game. Most players were often played out of position; sticking players to their natural positions will be welcome. The scorpions’ squad is currently full of great mentality and a winning mindset.

 

  1. Jonny, coming from Kenya, might know the essence of looking at players playing on the continent if not selecting players from the Gambia First Division. Dreams FC went all the way to the semifinals of the Confederation Cup, while Kebba Sowe was on the bench in an Esperance de Tunis 0-0 draw against Al Ahly in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final. Njine Faye was the last player to represent the Gambia while playing for CasaSports (Senegal). But today, the Gambia boasts a plethora of players playing on the continent and making significant strides. Gibril Sillah (Azam FC) Alieu Jatta (El Gounah) Pa Omar Jobe (Simba FC) Kajally Drammeh (Future FC), Matar Ceesay (Teungueth FC) Saikou Conteh (Qanah), Lamin Jallow (CR Belouizdad) and Yusupha Bobb (KACM Marrakech). The latter currently represents the Gambia. All these players deserve to be given a shot, especially Gibril Sillah and Matar Ceesay. Despite various top options in their positions.

3 The Lie Bojang U20 team that went to Argentina defines what a through transition is. The U20 should be knocking on the door of the U23 team; for now, they are knocked out, but the result in Egypt, where they won a bronze medal, beating Nigeria in the process, made it so easy to market themselves, with 95% of them securing professional contracts. Few of them went on to make giant steps in their careers: the captain, Alagie Saine, made 22 appearances with AC Horsens; Mahumd Bajo made 28 appearances in the Slovakia Nike Liga, who was in fact on the bench in the double header world cup qualifier matches in Tanzania; and Sainey Sanyang made 18 appearances in all competitions for CSKA Sofia. While Adama Bojang made nine appearances in Ligue 1. There are a host of U20 players who didn’t represent Gambia but might be given a shot in the future, In the likes of Ahmad Ndow (Stade de Tunisien), Nfansu Janneh in Ligue 2, and Nuha Jatta of RB Leipzig. We need understudies of Omar Colley, Sulayman Marreh, and Assan Ceesay; the same opportunity given to them should be provided to these players. It was a shame that in the previous two nation cups we didn’t go with any young players. This group of players needs the national team platform to make their next move.

4: Alfusaney Gassama, Jesper Ceesay, Adama Sidibeh, Ebrima Jarju and Saikou Touray are players whose names have been ringing in the ears of the Gambian fans; not necessarily Jesper Ceesay, but the rest are having a good season. Adama moved to St. Johnstone and went on to score five goals, three in a row, in 14 appearances. There might be totally new faces depending on what the coach decides, despite having the experience of Bubacarr Trawally and Yusupha Njie. There are a lot of potential future national team players emerging from Scandinavia, but Johnny must continue the incredible scouting network that Tom Saintfiet has built, especially if he manages to bring Mahdi Camara, who has become a monster player off late scoring seven and assisting four in 32 Ligue 1 appearances for Brest. The former Saint-Etienne captain plays an all-midfield role, making him the most sought-after player among the Gambians out there.

 

 

5: The technical director has been appointed by the national team handlers for a very long time, and that signal is bad. Despite Sang Ndong’s engagement with the junior category and the female team, his expertise is much needed in the senior team, where he and Johnny should work very closely on the blueprint of the scorpions and the rest of the categories. The TD should have previous reports from coaches, especially Tom, to make Johnny’s transition smooth. He should also serve as a guide between the FA and Ministry in technical matters, not the other way round, with an external body of the federation serving as the head of technical. 

There is a question as to who will be on Johnny’s technical team and where he will recruit from. Despite the fact that the Gambia has the likes of Pa Ann, Ebrima Saine, and Abdou Jammeh the system is not functioning, and it would have been a great help for Johnny to inherit a good system. Now it’s time to revamp and write history for the Gambia, our homeland.

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Baboucarr Fallaboweh
Baboucarr Fallaboweh Sports Editor (Buba Jallow Fallaboweh) is a Gambian football expert, football analyst & columnist. The Stockholm-based Journalist is a media officer, football Scout, PR, Influencer and Digital creator. I started my journalism career as a football analyst in 2012 with Vibes FM and went on to work with CityLimit, West Coast, Hot FM, Freedom Radio, Eye Africa and Afri Radio as a content producer and presenter. In 2013, I attended Football Daily on the BBC SPORTS where we discussed the different styles of Football played in Africa. I Went on to freelance for The Point Newspaper, Freedom Newspaper, Daily Observer and Standard Newspaper before being appointed as Sports Editor with the Alkamba Times in March 2022.  I have worked for Magazines like Glo Magazine and Foot54 covering Gambian football and African Football.   Between 2020 -2021 I worked as a scout for the Gambia Football Federation, scouting talents for the U17 &U20.  From 2017 to 2021, I served as Media officer for GFF First division teams Team Rhino and Marimoo and also as media Officer of Banjul FC, fourth Division tier in Sweden and Darboe’s FC (Female second division club in the Gambia). I served as a PR for Superstars Academy.   With Afrencon, I was a data analyst before I joined LightHouse as a head scout for the Gambia project. In organizational structures, I served as the ambassador of the John Bass Kidney Foundation and one of the founders of the foundation creating kidney awareness in the Gambia.   I also served two positions in the Gambian organization in Sweden, as Sports chairman and the secretary of the associations.   After 12 years of being a football journalist, I was named 3rd best sports column writer in Africa year 2021 by the reputable sports media organization AIPS. I finished in the top 35 in the world with my article titled Back way: Gambian footballers in deadly Voyage to Europe.   With over 500 articles and interviews, analysis, profiling, features and news, I was shortlisted for the Gambia Press Union National Journalist Award 2022. I submitted the article which was co-written alongside Momodou Bah From Living Through Despair to Being An Agent Of Hope, The Inspiring Story Of John Bass.   I have served as an advisers to Football academies, clubs, and players and others. I have hosted dozens of shows and was invited as a guest on both radio, TV and the online press. I also covered the Gambia's maiden AFCON debut in 2021 in Cameroon.  

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