Coach McKinstry and Gor Mahia crowned Champions of the Kenyan Premier League (25 June 2023).
At a glance:
- In his first season in charge, Coach McKinstry has led Gor Mahia to be crowned Champions of the Kenyan Premier League
- On the final day of the season Gor Mahia delivered an impressive 4-1 win in front of a packed stadium.
- Gor Mahia won the league with 70 points. Until this season the best performance by any other club in the modern era of the Kenyan Premier League was 66 points.
- McKinstry delivered this performance in the face of a number of challenges - before his appointment Gor Mahia had seen an exodus of key players, and a FIFA transfer ban prevented him from making new signings following his appointment.
Challenges on the road to victory
With one game to go, McKinstry had placed Gor Mahia (also known as K’Ogalo) at the top of the Kenyan Premier League with 67 points. The season had been one of the most competitive ever in the Kenyan Premier League. Despite Gor Mahia having secured more league points than any other club in the past 15 years, Tusker FC (league champions for the past 2 years), were only one point behind. In any other year in recent history, 67 points would already have clinched the league title.
On the final day of the season, Gor Mahia needed to secure a win against Nairobi City Stars to be sure of clinching the league title. To secure the title, Gor Mahia delivered an impressive 4-1 win in front of a packed stadium.
The journey to victory for McKinstry's Gor Mahia side however was not plain sailing, with McKinstry having to contend with an exodus of players before his arrival at the start of the season, and a FIFA transfer ban preventing any new signings until the middle of the season.
On his appointment, it was agreed with the club that the goal for the year was not to win the league, but simply to begin rebuilding a team that had not only lost players, but which some had felt had lost its way in recent seasons. At the start of the season, the general expectation was for the team to finish mid-table.
Working to restore club fortunes
Gor Mahia are the most successful club side in Kenya – before this week having won the Kenyan Premier League a record 19 times, as well as the FKF Cup a record 11 times.
However, the most recent 2 seasons had seen Gor Mania drop, finishing 8th and 3rd respectively in the Kenya Premier League.
In July 2022, Gor Mahia appointed Coach Johnathan McKinstry, seeking to restore the club to winning ways.
Transfer Bans and Pre-Season Difficulties
Just before McKinstry’s appointment Gor Mahia had seen an exodus of key players. The club was also under a FIFA transfer ban preventing McKinstry from making new signings following his appointment.
While rivals were able to strengthen and refresh their squads for the new season, McKinstry had to build his team at a relative disadvantage by not being allowed to sign new talent.
McKinstry began his tenure at the club with a squad of only 18 mainly local players. Off-field issues before his arrival often meant that McKinstry and his technical staff often had only a handful of players available for pre-season training, just a month before the league season began. This had obvious impacts on the speed at which he was able to develop the squad at a very crucial time.
Compared with championship winning Gor Mahia sides of past years, which have typically featured a range of international level players from Kenya and other countries, the side McKinstry had to work with under the FIFA transfer ban for most of the season was much more limited – with some players either young, or lacking a depth of experience that might be more common for a team who would go on to secure the league title.
Rebuilding: Player Development
Faced with the transfer ban, McKinstry drew on experience of developing players and promoting young talent, working to develop existing players and also promoting a number of young players from the academy team.
Under McKinstry’s guidance, a number of players delivered some of their best ever performances this season. For example:
- Striker Benson Omalla, posted a career-best 26 goals, one of the highest ever in the KPL, and missed out on the ‘Golden Boot’ on the final day by only one goal. This exceptional performance comes on the back of recent seasons which saw Omalla struggle under previous managers and while on loan to other clubs.
- Goalkeeper Gad Matthews secured the ‘Golden Gloves’ award, having kept 17 clean sheets as a core part of the Gor Mahia defence. This was Matthews’ best ever performance in a season.
- Academy players such as Paul Ochuoga were developed and are now first team regulars.
When the FIFA transfer ban was lifted just a few months ago, a number of players who had worked with McKinstry during his time managing the national teams of Rwanda and Uganda were eager to work with McKinstry again at club level. Included in those were Emery Bayisenge (Rwanda) and Patrick Kaddu and Shafik Kagimu (both Uganda).
Winning Performance: Kenyan Premier League
In the two league seasons before McKinstry joined Gor Mahia, Gor had finished eighth in the 20/21 season (twenty points behind champions Tusker); and third in the 21/22 season, again won by Tusker.
In his first season with Gor Mahia, McKinstry secured the league title, going undefeated in the league 88% of the time (30 of 34 games) with a 59% win ratio (20 wins from 34 games). This mirrored performance he had delivered for other teams.
Under McKinstry, Gor Mahia won the league with 70 points, up from 58 points in the season before he arrived. Until this season the best performance by any other club in the modern era of the Kenyan Premier League was 66 points.
|GOR MAHIA||Current Season (2022/23)||Last Season (2021/22)||Improvement|
|Goals from set pieces||16||3||530%|
Speaking after the match and league trophy presentation, Coach McKinstry commented:
“So few coaches and players get to experience moments like this... there are 18 teams in this league with 30 players at each of them... yet it is us today who gets to experience this...
...and especially this season which has been so challenging. It is well documented that in pre-season there were a lot of challenges... There were days when we had seven or eight players training because of the off-field issues...
To come back from that, and to come back from the transfer ban that we had...we had a lot of young academy players... If you went and asked 100 people on the street in July last year, did they think K’Ogalo had a chance of winning the league, maybe five or 10 of them would have said yes... most people thought we would be mid-table this season because of the issues off the field...
But the players have stepped up, they've grown up a lot... it is just fantastic... they are going to enjoy it... it's a great day.”
For more information on Coach McKinstry's performance across a number of his roles to date, you can read 'REVIEW: 20 Years of Coaching - Highlights and Key Stats (March 2021)' or read more about his Expertise and Professional background.