Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt admits he would not predict automatic promotion for the Reds in 2016/17, but is “excited” about the club’s prospects following last season’s brush with glory. In the second helping of a two-part exclusive interview with Observer reporter Jon Macpherson, Holt reflects ruefully on last season’s missed opportunity and says he has a decade-long plan for the club.
How do you reflect on your first season in charge?
How did we not go up? I still think about it to this day and the opportunities that we had.
There were a few bad decisions like the one against Wimbledon where the goal was disallowed at half-time. It seemed to me that it wasn’t for us and wasn’t our time.
We scored in every game at home all season apart from the last one against Stevenage.
There was a player in the second-leg of the play off who should have been sent off for an horrific challenge.
You’ve just got to say it wasn’t to be.
I’m really proud of what we achieved. I’ve got to give a big shout out to John (Coleman) and Jimmy (Phillips) and some of the players have been offered more money elsewhere but they are sticking with us.
John and Jimmy were offered other clubs. I did a deal with them.
They are not in contract but will be. We shook hands and they have stuck by that despite being offered clubs at a higher level.
All in all, if I was writing our report, it’s been a decent start but there is much more work to do.
It was only November when we started and we have got a new pitch down, effectively the
Clayton end is a brand new stand.
We have done what the fans wanted and made it all terraced. It’s got a bigger capacity and I know it’s going to be bouncing next season.
What can fans expect on the new signings front this summer?
There are some signings which have been announced and we are not talking new players that have been thrown away by other clubs, we are talking some decent players.
I’m not saying that’s what we had before but there is now a bit more attraction to Accrington Stanley because of the performance we had last year.
Players are seeing that things are changing at Stanley and I feel that John and Jimmy have a bit better choice.
They are exited for next season and I’m really excited myself.
On the field, with the new players and players who showed faith in us last season and signed new contracts, it should hopefully all pay off.
I’m not going into the new season nervous.
The things people need to remember are that a lot of the contracts that were in place were contracts that were done when Accrington Stanley were in dire straits.
We lost some players to Rangers and it couldn’t be helped as the club couldn’t do anything
So all the new players coming in, their contracts and terms are different. It can’t happen again to us and we can’t lose our whole team at the end of next season because we have taken the proper legal steps and put the proper contracts in place that stop that.
The club weren’t in a position to do that previously.
What are next season’s targets? Is promotion on the cards?
I’m excited. There are some good players coming in.
Make no mistake, John and Jimmy have been fully active. We could probably put a team out now that we think is going to be competitive.
To be honest nothing would surprise me. I wouldn’t predict that (automatic promotion) but I’m not going into the season worried or nervous.
I’m confident that we will do okay.
I wouldn’t go as far to say we are going to win the league.
I definitely don’t think we will go out of the league let’s put it that way.
If someone wants to name the most likely team to go out of the league again then I think they would be making a mistake to name us.
I don’t think there’s much chance of that to be honest.
My prediction is we won’t be going out of the league but we are going to have a good team and whatever happens, happens.
If we carry on getting refereeing decisions like we did against Wimbledon then you don’t know where you’ll be. You can’t do anything about them.
We are a really good little club and there will be days when things go for us and against us.
It’s not a one-season game that I’m playing, it’s a ten-year game. It will balance out over the long term.
It certainly didn’t balance itself out last season. I still don’t understand how we didn’t go up. It must’ve just been destined.
But the lads were great and tried hard. We had a great team and we will have a great team this year.
I’m excited with the work John and Jimmy are doing and the shape of the team they’re putting together.
What are your long-term targets for the club?
We need to get this club so it has facilities so people can come, be safe in a pleasant enough football environment.
They can bring their families to parts of the ground and those who want to have a big sing-song can have their part and experience.
It needs to be a day where people want to come and can be affordable. You don’t want to have to take a mortgage out to watch a game of football.
I don’t believe in ripping customers off or milking them. It’s not something I dream of. I want to give better value for money.
In giving value for money there is a commercial aspect and the club has to survive. One has to match the other and whatever we don’t take commercially we can’t spend on players.
I’m not saying £15 or £20 is the right price. But when everything starts working properly and we get better revenues from other streams like sponsorship and advertisers, I think we will be surprised at what potential we’ve got.
If you look at what John and Jimmy did last year with their budget, give them 50 per cent more and ask them if they would’ve gone up or not?
What measures have been taken to ensure longer-term squad stability?
As John has said in the past there has been no light at the end of the tunnel at the end of every season. It’s been a start again.
This year there is a light and next year we will probably have over half the squad contracted at the end of the season.
You are looking at improving year on year and not starting your squad all over again.
At Stanley, one minute you could be going up and the next minute you could be going down because all the squad has left at the end of every season and everyone has been free to go.
There will always be some of that but it’s about having a core group each year.
We got four good signings last year in Matty Pearson and Billy Kee and Seamus Conneely and Sean McConville and they effectively put themselves online for Accrington for this year. They have bought into what we are trying to do.
The new contracts we have been announcing are two years or options for two years so at the end of this season we are not starting again.