Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Northern Ireland man lands job managing Sierra Leone football team

Johnny McKinstry had been running a football academy in Freetown

He's the 28-year-old from Northern Ireland who's just landed a job managing an international football team – and the odds are you've never heard of him.

Johnny McKinstry has been handed the reins of the Sierra Leone national side.

The Lisburn man's new team currently sit 67th in the Fifa rankings, 52 places above his native land.

McKinstry has been installed as caretaker boss of the African country, which has a population of six million people.

He has been given three World Cup qualifying matches to secure the job on a full-time basis.

If he can inspire the Leone Stars to victory in those games he could become the first manager in the country's history to take them to a World Cup finals.

McKinstry had been running a football academy – owned by Wales striker Craig Bellamy – in the country's capital, Freetown.

He previously worked as a youth coach at Newcastle United and the New York Red Bulls, as well as coaching at Lurgan Town.

In 2006 he was named UK Grassroots Coach of the Year.

The games he must prepare the team for are with Tunisia, Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea.

The first game in McKinstry's tenure as international boss takes place in June.

The acting director of sports in the Sierra Leone sports ministry, Alphan Coker, confirmed McKinstry's appointment.

He said: "We decided to appoint McKinstry because he has a good CV and understands Sierra Leone football as he's been in the country for a while now.

"We believe he's a good choice."

He will be helped by two local coaches – former Sierra Leone international John Keister and goalkeeping coach Tamba Moses.

McKinstry replaces Sweden's Lars Olof Mattsson, who resigned a few weeks ago.

Earlier this week it was revealed Northern Ireland had slumped to 119th in the FIFA world rankings after a 2-0 home defeat by Israel, down from 98th last month.

Story so far

Sierra Leone means 'Lion Mountain' and the team are nicknamed the Leone Stars. They are run by the Sierra Leone Football Association and affiliated to the West African Football Union of CAF. They have never qualified for the World Cup but have looked promising in the Africa Cup of Nations. The country is just emerging from the effects of a bitter civil war that lasted 11 years and in which 50,000 people died.

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