Northern Irishman Jonathan Mckinstry has revealed what he enabled him to be appointed the Uganda Cranes coach.
FUFA unveiled Mckinstry as Cranes coach on September 30, 2019 on a three-year deal.
He replaced Frenchman Sebastien Desabre who then joined Pyramids FC (now at Niort FC) after Africa Cup of Nations.
Prior to the appointed, a committee of Dr Bernard Patrick Ogwel, Stone Kyambadde, Edgar Watson and Kalusha Bwalya was formed to select the coach before Mckinstry emerged the winner from all the 137 applicants
Mckinstry says that he got the job because he had coached the Rwanda National team (close proximity with Uganda) and his presentation had the vision similar to that of FUFA.
“I was coach of Rwanda sometime back and, Uganda and Rwanda are historical rivals, its like England and Scotland, their relationship goes beyond football on the pitch,” Mckinstry told Bola Bola podcast.
“I did well in Rwanda and set some new milestones with the National team, and then we came up against Uganda Cranes a couple of times – Uganda came out on top but we pushed them really hard to their limits both in Kampala and in Kigali, and I think that stayed with them.
“When I applied for the job, it was not someone just applying but someone they came up against so they knew what a Mckinstry team played like.”
“And they saw the alignment between my presentation and their (FUFA) vision for what football would be like in Uganda.
“Micho, who helped Cranes to 2017 AFCON, had coached Rwanda National team before taking on Uganda Cranes team. They already had that movement across the border.”
Mckinstry says that the targets he was given include returning the team to AFCON, lead a smooth transition of players and qualifying to the 2026 World Cup.
“FUFA has some good leadership. They have 74 staff which is the second biggest in Africa. They wanted the national team to improve; they had qualified in 2017 and knocked out in group stages, and in 2019, they reached the last 16 of AFCON,” Mckinstry added.
“They needed some smooth transition as some players on the team have aged and played in two AFCONs, so we have to usher in some emerging talent that has to be incorporated into the senior team.
“In 2018, the team finished second in their World Cup Qualifiers group behind Egypt who they beat at Namboole. They finished above Ghana and Congo, so it was a positive campaign. So we had to see what the draw brings up, and now we have Kenya, Tanzania and Mali, and we feel that we can top this group.”
Mckinstry says that he is always in touch with all Uganda Cranes players, even those abroad, thanks to advancement in technology.
“One of the big things in international football is communication, we have many media like Zoom and WhatsApp and there is also a private platform where all players can log on and we have discussions,” he revealed.
“I keep in touch with them while they stay in their club environment thanks to technology.
“My Monday and Tuesday involve watching most of the leagues because every league in the world is covered and I can be able to track their performances.”
Before coming to Uganda, he had coached club football with spells at Kauno Zalgris (Lithuania) and Saif SC (Bangladesh).
He revealed that he would one day return to coach football in Asia. “I would love to return to Asia at some point and work there. Football coaching is not a high way, its like a meandering river; you may not know where it will take you but you just hope that its the right direction.”
He says that he is inspired by American coaches (American Football and Basketball) and in football, he liked Brian Clough.
He explained: “I was a very huge fan of Brian Clough though we are very different. I love his directness and ability to make things unpredictable. Not Wenger who is tied to a singular philosophy.”
On a short active football career: “I had a short playing career, in Northern Ireland there is no professional league so every kid’s dream is to go and play in England or Scotland. I had to give up on my Career but I could not get enough of football though I don’t come from a football family because my brother plays Rugby while my father is in Motorsports. Its just that the game of football grabbed me at a young age, around seven. I am a person who wants to help other and if it was not for football, I would be employed somewhere in a company that helps to improve people’s lives.”
Mckinstry, appointed Sierra Leone coach at 27
Mckinstry was named Sierra Leone national team coach in 2013.
He led the country to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings – 7th in Africa and 50th in the World.
“Sierra Leone job was one you would say that it was right time at a right place. I was 27 years old then and running the only sort of professional football academy in the country. I had been there for about three years and had good players between 10-12 at the academy facility, had watched many games for both the league and national team, so I knew the country and culture very well, I could speak their language very well,” Mckinstry reflected.
Before he was appointed, The National team coach resigned, and with three games remaining in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Mckinstry says that it was obvious that they will be going for a coach on an interim basis.
“They said that they were going for a domestic coach and I knew that I had a chance. I made some important calls and then we met the Federation and Sports Ministry officials. I presented my plans; one was a dossier on how I could improve their game in three to five years, and the second, was about the next game against Tunisia which was important. Three days later, they offered me the job only to complete the remaining three games and that they would do the review thereafter. I was very confident that I was the best.
“We did a good job there, made some solid progress, we had good players there who were playing in Milan, Norwich, Sweden, Scotland etc.
“I feel very fortunate to have been given that job at such a young age.”
He says that he faced top coaches like Herve Renard at Ivory Coast who had won AFCON with Zambia and it was a good thing to gauge my progress against coaches like Avram Grant at Ghana and Aliou Cisse at Senegal.