Coach McKinstry has expressed his disappointment and frustration at the decision to replace him as Head Coach of the Sierra Leone 'Leone Stars' (17 September 2014).
At 4pm today (17 September) Coach McKinstry received an emailed letter from the Ministry of Sports advising that his contract had been terminated due to poor team performance in the recent two games. This was despite widely known logistics issues for these games that were outside of his control.
Coach McKinstry has expressed surprise at the decision - as have many football commentators and others.
Coach McKinstry has arguably been the most successful coach of the Leone Stars in recent times, only last month steering them to a Top 50 place in the FIFA World Rankings for the first time ever, and 7th in Africa - collectively their highest ever FIFA and CAF rankings, and well above their lowest ever ranking of 172 in 2007.
Ongoing Logistical Issues
The decision to dispense with Coach McKinstry's services comes on the back of failing to secure wins against Cote d'Ivoire and DR Congo in the AFCON qualifiers last week.
It is however widely known that preparations for these games had been far from ideal, with logistical and travel issues being such that players were only arriving in country 24 hours before games and in some cases, players were prevented from travelling due to lack of flight availability.
Training camps and preparation have thus been considerably impacted:
- For the Swaziland away qualifier in May, almost the entire squad arrived just over 24 hrs before the game.
- For the Cote d'Ivoire game this month, 5 of the squad arrived less than 24 hours before the game.
- Most recently, just last week the squad spent a full 2 days travelling - arriving only 36 hrs before the game against DR Congo last week, and allowing them only one light training session against a team who have been in camp locally for something approaching almost 10 days. Coach McKinstry was also required to drop two players at Kinshasha airport due to lack of seat availability on flights.
Reaction from Coach McKinstry
Reacting to the news today, Coach McKinstry said:
"It is obviously very disappointing and frustrating news, especially as logistics are outside of my control. I have repeatedly been clear for a number of months now on the critical importance of proper preparation time if we were to progress in the African Cup of Nations, even more so when it was announced that we were drawn against giants such as Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon."
"Following the difficulties last week, I had requested urgent meetings with the SLFA and Ministry of Sports this week to again ask them to try to rectify the situation with regards to preparation time before the upcoming Cameroon games, as it is simply not acceptable for an Top 50 international team to be arriving in country 24 hours before a game."
Reflecting on the lack of preparation afforded to him and the squad, Coach McKinstry said:
"We now have considerable talent in our squad, including the new players identified by me over the last 18 months. We have also nurtured an excellent team dynamic with all the players wanting to work together. The technical staff had also sought to maximise our tactical advantage by carefully studying our opponents before each game."
"However, talent and tactics could only ever take us so far. Access to sufficient preparation time in training camps would also be vital to ensure we were match ready and playing as one team. The simple truth has always been that lack of preparation time would severely limit our ability to progress in AFCON 2015, and to demonstrate the full potential of the Leone Stars."
"I had continued to stress the importance of preparation in everything we do. A key element in progressing to the finals of AFCON would be consistency - and consistency would only come with time and dedication. As logistics are not directly within my control, I had asked the SLFA and the Ministry of Sport to ensure we had the best opportunity to get the players together for sufficient time before each game so that we could prepare effectively as one team."
Following receipt of the emailed letter from the Ministry of Sports late this afternoon, Coach McKinstry travelled to personally speak with the Minister of Sport, Paul Kamara and then Chris Kamara, General Secretary of the SLFA.
"I wanted to speak with them personally... to wish both organisations the best for the future - but also to make clear again the critical importance of the Ministry of Sport and the SLFA ensuring proper preparation time for the squad ahead of games. I have brought together a very talented group of players and I do not wish to see that talent squandered through a simple lack of preparation.
I will also speak with squad members this evening - the players and I have had an excellent working relationship and I want to pass on my best wishes to them for the future."
Asked about his success to date and plans for the future he commented:
"In only 18 months, I and my backroom staff moved the Leone Stars to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - through talent identification; tactical analysis and preparation; innovative coaching; a positive team dynamic; and a more professional backroom environment. I am confident that with additional time and access to proper pre-game preparation we would have continued to improve."
"I look forward to future opportunities where, with access to appropriate team preparation, I can build on the above to deliver even greater results".
Reaction from Sports Journalists and Commentators
"Real Shame that @johnnymckinstry has been sacked by Sierra Leone. Did a brilliant job in impossible conditions".
Owen Amos. Journalist. BBC.
"Johnny McKinstry [was] very unfortunate to be sacked by Sierra Leone. They were making progress but are in a nightmare #Afcon2015 qualifying group."
John Bennett. Sports reporter for @bbcworldservice radio and BBC World TV.
"Hard working, passionate and dedicated @johnnymckinstry. I wish him all of the very best for the future"
Oluwashina Okeleji. Sports writer and broadcaster for BBC World Service.
"@johnnymckinsty Hope to see both of you finding another place. You deserve it with your massive work."
Oluwada' Lotfi. African football writer and statistician.
"Sad to see @johnnymckinstry sacked as #LeoneStars manager. Good development on-field and country representation off-field. All the best."
Thilo Kunkel. Professor at Temple University. Sport brand architect.
Johnny McKinstry has been sacked? Bizarre decision - especially in light of the circumstances in the country"
Sam Crocker. (Part of @Sandal4Goalpost team. Written for @Telegraph, @FourFourTwo, @ESPN, and @Squawka. )
"Find it ridiculous that @johnnymckinstry has been sacked as SL Head Coach. Should be proud of your work..."
Will Rowlands. Wirral Schools FA Head Coach, Everton FC Scout,
For more news and pictures of Leone Stars games and training camps - visit www.johnnymckinstry.com/leonestars
Notes to Editors
- Johnny McKinstry was appointed Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team on 11th April 2013. Then, aged only 27 he was the youngest manager in international football. You can read more about his time in charge of the Leone Stars. Coach McKinstry is also Academy Manager of the Craig Bellamy Foundation Academy in Sierra Leone.
- On 14 Aug 2014, Sierra Leone moved to 50th place in the FIFA World Rankings and 7th in Africa - their highest ever placing. The Leone Stars previous highest ranking was in 1996 when they reached 51st place. By 2007 they had fallen to their lowest ranking at 172nd place.
- See www.johnnymckinstry.com for a range of information - biography, press releases, photographs and videos for press use.
Leone Stars Highlights
You can click any of the pictures below to see a full screen version of the picture. You can then also choose to click the play arrow to watch a slide show of all images.