Coach McKinstry is no longer Head Coach of the Sierra Leone 'Leone Stars'

At 4pm September 17th 2014 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.

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.

Delivering a Top 50 FIFA World Ranking Team

Appointed April 2013, McKinstry had been clear on two goals - to move Sierra Leone to the top 50 in the world, and to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2015.  These goals remained unchanged even when Sierra Leone were drawn in what was widely seen as the most difficult qualification group of AFCON 2015 - with opponents including Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire.

Talent, Tactics and Preparation

Coach McKinstry has from the outset been clear on how these goals would be achieved - through talent, tactics and preparation.

"I had sought to develop a clear playing style, and also to expand the player pool available to the Leone Stars. We had been bold in our efforts - adopting an attacking style and giving out 14 debuts since I took over.  By identifying new talent we had had better access to a group of quality players who were playing regularly for their clubs and hence were match fit. This had allowed us to improve the overall quality of the squad and to advance in the world rankings."

"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."

 

Reaction from Coach McKinstry

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 logistics and preparations for these games had been far from ideal, with travel arrangements being such that players were only arriving in country 24 hours before games.

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."

 In recent games, training camps have been impacted due travel and logistics issues meaning that players were not arriving in country in good time.

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.

 

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."

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."

~Read More Here~

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