Johnathan McKinstry: Did departed Gor Mahia coach deserve 'plumber' tag?

©Gor Mahia

Johnathan McKinstry: Did departed Gor Mahia coach deserve 'plumber' tag?

Festus Chuma 05:41 - 24.05.2024

Johnathan McKinstry's tenure at Gor Mahia was marked by both achievements and criticisms but his success at K'Oaglo shows the 'plumber tag' was unfair.

Two years ago, Gor Mahia named Johnathan McKinstry as their new head coach for the 2022/23 season. 

The Northern Irishman replaced German tactician Andreas Spier, who opted not to renew his contract at the end of the previous season. 

McKinstry went on to win the title in his first season and retained it in the 2023/24 season with three matches to go.

Now, as McKinstry begins his job as the Gambia national team head coach, it is time to reflect on his tenure at Gor Mahia.

While he received praise, he also faced criticism, with some fans questioning his fielding of players and dubbing him "the plumber" – a slang term in football used to describe unqualified foreign coaches who just come to eke a living.

At the end of his first season, despite leading the team to victory, many called for his sacking due to the club’s off-pitch problems. 

Gor Mahia faced financial issues and operated with a lean squad of 18 players for most of the season, owing to a two-year FIFA transfer ban imposed due to dues owed to former players.

Even in the current 2023/24 season, where he secured the title, there were times when the team’s form did not seem synonymous with that of a championship-winning side, especially towards the end of the first leg of the season.

Fans were right to ask questions. However, it is important to note that the club's budget has been tight, despite the backing from shirt sponsors SportPesa. 

Additionally, many players in the squad were either young or lacking the experience needed to challenge for the title.

Labeling McKinstry as a 'plumber' seems unfair, especially when considering his achievements both at Gor Mahia and in his previous roles.

McKinstry has an impressive coaching record, having been the youngest international manager in the world at 27 when he took over Sierra Leone and guided them to their highest FIFA ranking to date.

At Rwanda, he led the team to the final of the 2015 CECAFA Championship and the quarter-finals of the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN), which was their maiden knockout stage appearance in a major competition. 

At Saif SC, a Bangladeshi club, McKinstry set new club records for most points in a league season, most wins in a league season, and most goals scored in a league season.

During his time at Gor Mahia, McKinstry was in charge of 65 out of 68 matches in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League.

In those matches, he registered 39 wins, 20 draws, and only six losses; statistics that highlight his effectiveness and capabilities as a coach.

Furthermore, McKinstry played a crucial role in bringing out the best in players like Benson Omala, one of Kenya’s leading top scorers, Austin Odhiambo in midfield, and Rooney Onyango, along with other young talents. 

While his tenure at Gor Mahia was not without its challenges, McKinstry’s achievements and the statistics speak for themselves. 

His success in securing back-to-back titles, managing the team under financial constraints, and developing young players underscore his qualifications and abilities. 

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