Leam Richardson admits he’ll always have a soft spot for Stanley after abruptly ending his association with the club last week.
Richardson joined the Reds as a player in 2005, helping the club return to the Football League that season and then maintain their League status.
As his playing days drew to a close he began coaching and cut his managerial teeth at the Store First Stadium, serving as Paul Cook’s number two before taking the top job himself last October.
And although he initially turned down the opportunity to follow Cook to Chesterfield, he felt the time was right to say goodbye to Stanley after steering the Reds to safety.
“It was a big wrench to leave,” he said. “When you’ve been somewhere so long you build up relationships with certain people – the fans, the staff, the players.
“It really brings it home how proud I was to be involved with the club and I don’t think that’ll ever leave me now.
“I’ve seen Accrington go through all sorts of trials and tribulations; the club’s been a big part of my career and I’m really appreciative of everything the club did for me and with me.
“During my tenure we put a good squad together and got into play-off form.
“There’s some really good people working there and they deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done and what they do.”
Richardson’s departure stunned many around the Store First Stadium as it came just three days after the final game of the season at home to Oxford.
The 33-year-old insists the move hadn’t been lined up before the end of the campaign and, that once he was made aware Cook was still interested in renewing their managerial partnership, he had to make a quick decision.
The former Bolton and Blackpool defender was only six months into a two-and-a-half-year contract as Stanley boss.
But not only do Chesterfield have the resources to challenge for promotion back to League One next season, Richardson and his wife are based in Leeds, have a two-year-old son and are expecting their second child this month.
“The question was asked when Paul left but I felt it wasn’t the right time for Accrington to be handed over to somebody fresh and somebody new, with it happening halfway through the season,” Richardson explained.
“And for my own progression and my own career, I’m glad I took the opportunity to become manager.
“I made the decision after the Oxford game solely because I’m still progressing as a person, a manager and a coach. I think for my own CV, it’s the right decision.
“I’ve got a young family and geographically it’s slightly better. I’ve been at Accrington a long time and I think I’ve experienced everything that I needed to there.
“To get an opportunity to go to somewhere like Chesterfield, I couldn’t really turn it down. I hope the people at Accrington understand my decision and wish me well.”
Having earned his stripes during a challenging rookie season in management, it also surprised some to see Richardson return to an assistant manager’s role, but as he explains, time is on his side.
“I’m not status-driven, I’m not financially-driven,” he added. “I think career-minded and football people know it’s the best decision for myself.
“I’m 33 and if I have another 10 years’ experience, whatever role I’m doing at 43 I’ll definitely be better equipped to go on and have a really good career.
“It’s not about being able to call myself the manager or having an extra couple of quid a week. I’ve looked at the bigger picture and the long-term future for myself and my family.”
On his arrival at Chesterfield last week, their chief executive Chris Turner described Richardson as a ‘good, experienced young coach’.
Richardson feels his managerial apprenticeship was perhaps better served with Stanley than with any other club, given the issues that arose during his time with the Reds.
“I learnt a lot about myself in the last six months, about dealing with the job and with players,” he said. “And the good thing is I learnt quite quickly that I was actually quite good at it.
“It’s one of the hardest jobs because the club’s got probably the lowest budget in the Football League and we didn’t just survive, we did it playing some good football along the way as well.
“I’m proud of what we did and I really enjoyed it.
“I learnt a lot more about myself and other people in these six months than I would have done in four or five years (somewhere else).
“No matter what job you do you quickly adapt, you quickly adjust, and you grow as a person – and I felt I did that in abundance.
“Accrington is a unique club. They’ve got the right culture, it’s a family club and the people actually love the club.
“I went there when I was out of contract as a player and ended up staying there for eight years, more or less doing most roles at the club.
“I played in almost every position, then I was coach, assistant manager and manager – I even did the kit now and again – so it was a great experience.”