He says he and the club’s owners have never chosen the cheap option and that every mistake has been an honest one.
But Coates is firmly confident that in Michael O’Neill the club has a manager capable of leading the club back towards better times ahead.
“I hold my hands up when things go wrong,” he said, “but never has anything been because of lack of ambition. We’ve just got certain things wrong.
“Clearly, some of our recruitment hasn’t been good enough, but we now believe we have the right manager and management team.
“We’ve acknowledged that some signings haven’t been the best and I can feel the pain of that, both from a fan’s perspective and from the fact that since 2006 I think we’ve put £224m into the club.
“Clearly, that’s a lot of money and you don’t want to recruit badly and we absolutely acknowledge we’ve got to get better at it… and we will.”
Coates, who was sat alongside his manager and chief executive Tony Scholes, was addressing fans during a Forum attracting around 200 in the Waddington Suite.
They were pressed on the errors made en route to Stoke losing their Premier League status and ending up fighting against relegation from the Championship.
“If you make mistakes, you’d be a fool not to learn from them,” said Scholes, “but it doesn’t mean you are not going to make other mistakes going forward.
“John and I can’t sit here and say the last three years have been good enough.
“One of the key decisions is going out there and getting the right manager. All you can do is go out there and do that job with the rigour and due diligence and experience you’ve got, then you’ve got to make a judgement.
“Sometimes, and for us clearly over the last couple of years, hindsight has shown that that judgement was wrong.”
He defended the length of contracts dished out to the likes of Saio Berahino by saying they were to protect the club’s investment by ensuring players didn’t become free agents too quickly.
As for who was responsible for signing the likes of Berahino, he added: “It’s not fair to lay blame on people, especially if they (Mark Hughes) aren’t here.
“During Mark’s time, you have to look at some of the signings that were made and they went extremely well.”