Jonathan McKinstry, who was unveiled as Uganda Cranes’ new coach on September 30, begins his new assignment against Ethiopia in an international friendly match this weekend.
The 34-year-old Irishman, one of the youngest coaches to handle a national team (he coached Sierra Leone when he was 27), replaced Frenchman Sebastien Desabre who quit the Cranes job in July after the Afcon finals.
Desabre joined Egyptian premier league side, Pyramids FC. In his first comments, McKinstry said his dream is to guide Uganda beyond the Afcon finals, which means his immediate target is the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
Uganda has never played at the World Cup finals; hence McKinstry’s dream sets anxiety among the local fraternity. It is against such background that many Ugandans will be keen on Sunday (October 13)’s match against Ethiopia in the town of Bahir Dar.
In his last national team job, McKinstry guided Rwanda to the quarterfinals of the Chan. According to some of his peers, McKinstry is good at building confidence in players and identifying talent.
“He is a coach with fine attributes. And seeing the amount of talent Uganda has, McKinstry and The Cranes are a perfect fit,” Bonnie Mugabe, the Rwanda football competitions director, told The Observer.
Fufa chief executive officer Edgar Watson, said McKinstry will, however, work hand in hand with the locals as his assistant. But as the clock ticks away to McKinstry’s maiden game, sharp contrasts started emerging on his preferred backroom staff.
Fufa insisted Abdallah Mubiru and his interim team, would back the new coach while other sources said Ibrahim Mugisha, Fred Kajoba and Livingstone Mbabazi are his preferred choices. In fact, the trio is expected to travel to Ethiopia where the Cranes squad (comprising only foreign-based players) is due to assembly tomorrow, October 10.
At 34, McKinstry has coached the Sierra Leone (2013 to 2014) and Rwanda (2015 to 2016) national teams. He guided Rwanda to second place at the Cecafa Senior Challenge cup in 2015.
While at those two jobs, he handled 33 games, winning 14, drawing four and losing 15; a 44 percent winning rate. Interestingly, McKinstry also coached Lithuanian side Kauno Zalgiris in the Uefa Europa League between July 2017 and January 2018.