McKinstry sends mixed wishes to Harambee Stars ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Johnathan McKinstry

McKinstry sends mixed wishes to Harambee Stars ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Festus Chuma 12:28 - 27.05.2024

Johnathan McKinstry has sent mixed messages to Harambee Stars ahead of their World Cup qualifying matchups.

Gambia newly appointed head coach Johnathan McKinstry has offered his best wishes to Harambee Stars albeit with a caveat as both teams prepare for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The Northern Irishman, recently at the helm of FKF Premier League champions Gor Mahia, is set to officially take over the Gambia national team on a two-year contract starting on Monday. 

While McKinstry holds a fondness for Kenya, he made it clear that his new role puts him squarely in competition with his former associates.

"In the long term, you are correct that I hope to see the Kenya National Team and especially the players that I've worked with do well," said McKinstry.

"However, in the short term, that isn't necessarily my objective, because I'm sure you're aware Gambia and Kenya are in the same World Cup qualifying group. So it won't be so long until I'm back here in the away dugout, hopefully at Kasarani once it's renovated," he added.

The Gambia and Kenya are set to clash on March 17 and September 25 next year, marking crucial matches for both sides in their quest for a spot in the World Cup.

 "So actually, I won't be wishing the Kenyan team well for the next 18 months, because we are direct rivals," McKinstry emphasized.

Reflecting on his time at Gor Mahia, McKinstry praised the young talents he had worked with. 

"We fielded all U-23, and many of those players were 19, 20, and 21 years old. For me, that shows great potential for the future," he remarked. 

McKinstry's role with The Gambia comes at a challenging time, as the team has struggled recently, failing to secure a win in their last six matches and suffering a group stage exit from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. 

His immediate task is formidable, with upcoming matches against Seychelles and Gabon in June, which are pivotal for reviving The Gambia's hopes in the qualifiers.

Despite the tough road ahead, McKinstry expressed a genuine fondness for the Kenyan team.

 "So I wish Harambee Stars all the very best. I understand it's a very difficult job. And yeah, I hope they win six of their remaining eight World Cup qualifiers. But I'm sorry to tell you that I intend to take six points when we come back with Gambia," he concluded.