Accrington Stanley: Owner Andy Holt says he was 'too loyal' to ex-boss John Coleman

Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt believes he was too loyal to former manager John Coleman and should have got rid of him earlier.

Coleman and assistant Jimmy Bell were sacked earlier this month, with the club 16th in League Two.

The pair were in their second spell in charge of the East Lancashire outfit, which had begun in September 2014.

"I wanted to sack them at Christmas last season in League One," said Holt. "If I had, we would have stayed up."

In an extensive interview with BBC Radio Lancashire, the Accrington owner and chairman spoke at length about how the situation at the club had deteriorated over the last 18 months of Coleman's reign.

Holt, who has subsequently appointed John Doolan as Coleman's permanent replacement, cites the introduction of an Under-23s team as a "fatal error" that weakened the first-team squad.

According to the chairman, it put Coleman and Bell at loggerheads with each other over that decision.

Against that backdrop, Accrington lost their fight to stay in League One on the final day of last season after five years in the third tier.

But Holt blames his own inaction for that loss in status.

Coleman's 'fatal error'

"Coley was an autocrat and he ran the football and I was happy that he did," he said.

"We'd got promoted, we'd stayed in League One, so all credit to him. If that had carried on working, it would never have been an issue.

"But Coley made a fatal error that undermined the entire club and that was the introduction of an Under-23 squad."

There was a far larger group of players on the books - a severe test of the club's financial resources - and while the first-team squad was struggling, the Under-23s won the Central League.

Behind the scenes, Holt revealed that assistant Bell did not agree with Coleman's decision and was predicting their eventual demise in League One.

The chairman also said that the EFL had questioned whether a club of Accrington's size could afford the undertaking of running an U23s team.

The club's board met at the end of last season and voted to sack Coleman and his assistant.

But Holt admits he vetoed that call in favour of giving them until Christmas this season back in League Two.

'Ample chance to say sorry'

However, the situation changed fundamentally in October when Bell appeared on BBC Radio Lancashire and stated publicly there had been a delay in him and Coleman being offered new contracts.

Holt was furious and the pair were informed in writing on 18 October that they needed to issue a public apology.

When that did not come, the owner felt compelled to act with the decision to remove them taken the day after a 4-0 defeat at Wrexham.

"They knew exactly where they stood before Jimmy went and drove a wedge between me and the fans," he said.

"They were paid to do a job. They work for a club, that's the end of it.

"It was designed to leverage power against me. I told John and Jimmy, there was no hope of a future of us working together if they didn't resolve this.

"I backed them for so long. They had ample opportunity, they could have said sorry.

"The end of February was the last point I could afford to let it go, because of all the players we've got coming to the end of their contract.

"Whoever was coming in needed time to come in and have a look at it."

BBC Radio Lancashire has approached John Coleman and Jimmy Bell for comment.