Johnny McKinstry, Academy Manager, coaching elite young players

Coach McKinstry has extensive experience in elite player development, at both full international level and in elite academies. 

Talent identification and development is central to Coach McKinstry's approach.  He seeks to work at all levels of the game to build long-term development.  


At international level, he not only works directly with players, but has also developed a network of scouts and contacts to assist him to identify and secure the very best talent.  

As part of his work with elite academies he has scouted and nurtured young talent that has gone on to play at youth and full international level.  He has also established national networks of league coaches and scouts, and ensured their ongoing professional development.


International Manager and Head Coach Roles

As part of his role as Head Coach, Coach McKinstry typically not only has responsibility for the technical development of the senior male national football teams, but also national u23 and u20 men's squads.

He often also plays a key role in the development and delivery of frameworks for coach and player development, nurturing talent and delivering skills development clinics and training sessions.  He devotes considerable effort on team development and talent identification.  

In Sierra Leone for example, alongside working on coach and player development, he gave out 14 international debuts in just 18 months, bringing the average squad age down from 29 to 22.  The impacts of his efforts were clear - within just 16 months (August 2014) Coach McKinstry had led Sierra Lone to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - 7th in Africa and 50th in the World - both well above their lowest ever ranking of 172 in 2007, an achievement hailed by as "remarkable"

He also provides technical advice on a range of matters, including wider football development and coach education.


Craig Bellamy Foundation

cbflogoCoach McKinstry was Academy Manager of the Craig Bellamy Foundation (CBF) where he had overall responsibility for the operation of both a full-time elite football academy, and youth development leagues operated nationwide by the organisation.

The CBF Academy sought to develop talented young athletes and work with them to produce football players who were well-rounded, inspirational role models.

The CBF League, involved over 3,000 boys and girls across the country, aiming to use football to bring about positive change, focusing on increasing school attendance, football development and respect for fair play.

Appointed in January 2010, in just 5 short years Coach McKinstry oversaw the development of the Academy into the leading sporting facility in Sierra Leone - developing and placing elite young players in Europe, Asia and North America.  


During that time he managed the academy, developing the first generation of talent to:

  • See players secure full international and u-20 Sierra Leone international caps (despite only being aged 16 and 17);
  • Secure academic / sports scholarships for CBF boys to attend college in the USA / UK (value of $1.3million);  
  • Develop talent for subsequent professional contracts and training placements in Asia.
  • Arrange international training placements with some of Europe’s leading clubs (Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester City);
  • Organise a national recruitment programme in 2013 to assess in excess of 7000 10-12 year olds to select future scholarship recipients;
  • Establish a national network of scouts / coaches and ensure the continuous professional development of over 100 coaches per annum across the country.



'Right to Dream' Football Academy, Ghana

MUFC PremierCup Africa2010

Coach McKinstry was as Interim Head Coach of the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana in 2010, having spent some time with them previously in 2006.


In 2010, his team were crowned 2010 Nike Premier Cup African Champions and progressed to the Nike / Manchester United World Finals where they achieved an impressive 7th place finish with victories against clubs such as Newcastle United and Werder Bremen.


During his two spells with the internationally acclaimed Ghanian Academy, Coach McKinstry coached several players who have gone on to represent Ghana at both youth and senior international level including major tournaments such as the African Cup of Nations, and 2014 FIFA World Cup.



Red Bull Academy, New York, USA

Coach McKinstry worked as Pre-Academy Coach at Red Bull New York between 2007 and 2009.

During this period he was responsible for identifying and developing young talent for entry into the Red Bull Academy, the first free-to-play football academy in the USA. Many of these still young players have already gone on to represent the USA at international level in various age categories.


Wider Experience & Industry Recognition

Alongside the above, Coach McKinstry has a range of experience coaching teams in the UK, USA and in Africa.  

He has been named as 'UK Grassroots Coach of the Year' by Manchester United FC for his work within the football industry and has been recognised nationally in the field of 'Outstanding Team Motivation' for his role in developing and preparing athletes for competition.  

As part of his philosophy of continuous development, he ensures that he regularly spends time observing and sharing best practice with other top teams and coaches.  

He has been hosted by, and spent time with a range of club including: Swansea City F.C. (English Premier); the Scottish Football Association; Hibernians F.C. (Scottish Championship); Everton F.C. (English Premier);   ATM F.A. (Malaysian Premier); Phnom Penh Crown F.C. (Cambodian Premier); Army United F.C. (Thai Premier); Queen's Park Rangers (English Premier).




  Coach McKinstry with John Trye, Goalkeeper, Leone Stars [Photo (c) Darren McKinstry]

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Twitter: @johnnymckinstry

Instagram: @coachmckinstry



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About Coach McKinstry

Coach McKinstry is a UEFA Pro Licensed Football Coach, with a number of successes across his 20+ year career to date.    He is currently Head Coach of the Gambia National Team and Head Coach of Gor Mahia FC in Kenya (2022-24) where he won two Kenya Premier League titles (2023-24, 2022-23), and the 2023-24 Kenya Charity Shield, returning the club to the top of Kenyan football.

As Head Coach of the Uganda National Team, (2019 - 2021) he led Uganda to win CECAFA 2019 and delivered a win from 2 in every 3 games, going undefeated in 8 in evey 10 games.  This represented the highest 'win' and 'undefeated' rate achieved by a Uganda National Team Coach in over 15 years.

He was Head Coach of the Rwanda National Football Team (2015-16). Within 17 months he led Rwanda to a number of highs - including their first ever appearance in the knockout stages of a major international tournament (Quarter-finals of CHAN, Jan 2016) and finished runner-up in CECAFA (Dec 2105), being named 'Coach of the Tournament' for his efforts. 

Across 2013-14, he was Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team. Within just over a year, he had led Sierra Leone to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - 7th in Africa and 50th in the World (August 2014). 

He has also been Head Coach of Saif Sporting Club, Bangladesh Premier League (2018-19); and FK Kauno Zalgiris, Lithuanian A-Lyga (2017-18).   

Coach McKinstry is a European (UEFA), American (NSCAA) and university qualified football coach and a member of Common Goal.

Quotes: What the media say

  • If one day, McKinstry reaches the very pinnacle of the game, few could begrudge him his day in the sun... no one could say he hasn’t earned it.

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    Daily Mirror
  • McKinstry led the team to their highest ever placing in the FIFA world rankings. They broke into the top 50, ahead of his native Northern Ireland.

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    Damien Edgar Backpage Football
  • McKinstry has come close to a giant killing before, when his Sierra Leone side came within half an hour of defeating Herve Renard’s Cote d’Ivoire.

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    Ed Dove
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