The McKinstry era begins as he calls for togetherness to move forward

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The Gambia Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Youths and Sports, in collaboration with the National Sports Council and the Gambia Football Federation, unveiled Irish-born Johnathan McKinstry on a two-year contract on Monday, May 27th.

The 38-year-old coach won back-to-back titles with Kenyan Powerhouse Gor Mahia before deciding to take the Scorpions job. Johnny had stints with Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Rwanda far as national teams are concerned. However, he will be the scorpions eighth foreign coach, and he is tasked with returning the scorpions to the Nations Cup in 2025.

The coach will begin his tenure with double World Cup qualifiers against the Seychelles and Gabon.

“There is only one direction in which we are going, and that is forward, not just as a nation, a federation, or a ministry, but rather mentally going forward in the game. We want to go forward; every step we take is forward; the level we take is forward.” McKinstry emphasised this during his unveiling.

“Our ambition is to ask the players that have been there to do even more better, not forgetting the U20 players that had success in Egypt and Argentina and even those that weren’t part of them but have huge potential.”

“It will be an exciting journey; I am looking forward to it, believe the players are looking forward to it, and hoping the supporters are looking forward to it also.”

He further on outlined his objectives as he hopes to see the Gambia excelling.

“We want to improve; there will be stylish evolution; the team has done extremely well in the last five years; now can we improve that and take it forward, making us more dominant and creative in games?”

“My biggest asset is adaptability and flexibility, which help me bring in my standards and ideas while also incorporating myself into the local culture and the local DNA of the country. My adaptability is something I rely on. Having spent five years in Sierra Leone will help me with adoption in the Gambia and will play an important role. I know every country is unique.”

“We should not be quick to disregard the reliable things that have served us well in the past. I am not afraid to give young players the opportunity. I will remind you that I gave a 16-year-old his debut against Tunisia when I was in charge of the Sierra Leone national team.”

“Age 25–29 is your peak year as a player, and lots of Gambians fall into this category. That’s when you ask players to be performing at their best. For me, it’s about performances, who is playing well, and who deserves to have the shot, and if the 19-year-old deserves the shot, he will have it. then it’s up to him to play to the level that keeps him on the team.”

The coach was tight-lipped when he was asked about his technical team setup but said the list would be available when unveiling the selected list of players.

“A bit of a mixture for me is those that have the confidence, making sure you get someone that has the skills to do the job. It’s about quality. Three new guys will be coming to join me because I have worked with them. If there are adjustments, we will look at what’s in the Gambia; otherwise, we will bring from elsewhere. All the technical team members have to be doing their jobs; otherwise, what is the purpose of being there?” he quizzed.

The coach, after his unveiling, will be at Bakau watching Marimoo versus Real de Banjul and said he will revive the local football so as to build a good CHAN team.

Jonny at Bakau Mini Stadium watching Marimoo v Real de Banjul

“I am a big believer in local football. My time is split between the Gambia and Europe, but I want to spend a good amount of time in the Gambia. By meeting the local coaches to help in our work and the three best players in every position in that route, we can develop the CHAN team.”

“The last five years were exceptional, and for the Gambia, we can really appreciate the achievement. To elevate themselves, a defensive approach is absolutely the right thing to do. You have to learn how to win. This has created a great platform; resilience and toughness are the foundation. When we are attacking, we want to go forward together, not only with one or two players. When we are defending, we want to go forward, not backwards. We will work to be in a higher position in the field, more intense and aggressive. In time, you will see my character and core in how scorpions play, which can’t happen in three or four days’ time.”

The young gaffer also states that he had a series of offers and coming to the Gambia was not because of the financial gains.

“There were various inquiries from countries and clubs. Is not money which motivated me to come here but is about football opportunities. When I look at the players, especially the young players, that’s where I want to be and see if there will be a positive impact, and I feel like I am the right person and I believe together, we can achieve more than we did in the last five matches.” He added.

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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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