The Preston manager, Graham Westley, has accused four of his players of deliberately leaking tactical information before their 2-0 League One defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

Westley, who replaced the sacked Phil Brown in January, has been the target of growing criticism for overseeing a dire run of results, with only one win in their last 11 games leaving them 16th, only six points above the relegation zone.

Speaking after the defeat at Hillsborough, Westley said: "This squad's got a lot of losing ways installed in it, and there's no better example of that than what Wednesday's bench told me during the second half. I have to work on the basis that their bench wouldn't lie, and they said that four players of ours yesterday, at five o'clock, revealed our team to them.

"Does it surprise me? When you've got a number of agendas within a club – and I've said since I've been here that that's the case – this sort of thing happens. And it's not the first time that something's happened here that's surprised me.

"This dressing room is fighting against itself. There are 35-odd players in the squad and they will be very disappointed that some are working against their team-mates.

"It's a difficult place at the moment … But at times it pays to let people know the type of stuff that goes on in a losing environment. It's my job to put a stop to it."

Westley's claim has the potential to prompt a Football League investigation should officials believe the apparent leak harmed the competition's integrity.

Westley, 44, had previously hinted at the problems behind the scenes after being abused by Preston's fans during last Tuesday's 3-1 home defeat by Brentford – suggesting he was planning to sell those players who were reacting badly to his methods.

"When you have a new regime coming in people do react … I have listened to lads saying they are getting fitter and stronger and I don't understand why anybody would react against that, but there are players that do. When you have got that sort of split you are working towards the summer where you can change it. People who don't want to be here can move on."