PAUL Paton last night issued a chilling warning to Championship-bound Dundee United by insisting they might never return to the top flight.
Dundee Utd - 0
Inverness CT - 2
Storey 13, Vigurs 50
The Tayside club’s fate now looks almost inevitable after Saturday’s latest defeat at the hands of Inverness – their 21st league loss of a disastrous campaign – left them trailing second-bottom Kilmarnock by eight points with just five games remaining.
Mixu Paatelainen’s side are staring relegation in the face and Paton, who joined United from First Division Partick Thistle in 2013, has left his shell-shocked team-mates under no illusions about what it would entail to drop down and then try to win promotion to the Premiership.
Paton, pictured, said: “There are so many good players in the Championship who believe they should be playing in the Premiership.
“My worry is that you get sucked down there and never get out of it. There’s nothing to say that if you did get promoted you’d get a contract to play again in the Premiership. Your form might slip.
“It’s a hard division to get out of. There will be big clubs with you, whether it be Kilmarnock, Hamilton or Hibs. It would be a real slog.
“I was in that division for five years with Partick and it was tough. You’re relieved and happy when you become a Premiership player so to drop back down to the Championship would be heart-breaking.”
Paton branded the goals United lost a “disgrace” and admitted their disillusioned fans had every right to head for the exits once Iain Vigurs netted Inverness’ second in 50 minutes, adding to Miles Storey’s 12th-minute opener.
He added: “I would probably have done the same. If I’d paid good money to watch that I’d probably have walked away as well. I’d have gone down the pub.
“Our two travelling supports at St Johnstone and Partick Thistle were brilliant.
“It’s the fans you’ve got to feel for. I’m not just saying that. They’ve been the backbone of this club and we’ve let them down again. Performances like that get you relegated. The goals we’re giving away are a disgrace.”
United’s only potential silver lining is this Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Hibs, when they’ll get the opportunity to receive a break from the pressure of the league.
Midfielder Paton added: “I think it’s a welcome distraction. It has been in the past.
“Hibs are a really good team and have already battered us 3-0 [in the League Cup] so we know how difficult it is going to be, but the pressure does lift a wee bit.”