John Rankin admitted Dundee United need a “football miracle” to preserve their top-flight status after the Tannadice side’s latest home defeat sparked protests outside the ground.
The midfielder hid his face in his jersey as he left the park following the 3-1 defeat by a hungrier Hamilton Accies. The visitors now need only to beat Kilmarnock at home this weekend to guarantee Premiership football next season.
United, by contrast, all but accepted what seems inevitable after failing to cut the eight-point gap between them and 11th-placed Kilmarnock.
A group of about 250 fans vented their anger at chairman and majority owner Stephen Thompson afterwards, gathering in Tannadice Street to protest over his stewardship of the club.
“I feel for those fans,” said Rankin. “They’re obviously devastated to see the club in this position.
“We can hear them from the dressing room. We can’t see them but we could hear it. Obviously you hear what they’re shouting, it’s not nice – especially as most of it is caused by our performance.”
Rankin and fellow senior players Paul Paton and Sean Dillon were last to leave the pitch, after applauding those fans who stayed until the bitter end.
“The fans deserve much more than just that,” Rankin added. “One punter called me over and told me he’d just come off a 12-hour night shift to watch that. I sympathise with him, because of that performance – if you put in performances like that, you deserve to be in the Championship. Let’s not kid anyone on, we were terrible. And it’s not good enough. Listen, we are in need of a football miracle. We really are.”
If Kilmarnock defeat Hamilton on Saturday, then United’s relegation could be confirmed by rivals Dundee at Dens Park a week today.
Manager Mixu Paatelainen conceded Championship football is now “very, very close”. “Of course, mathematically it is still possible,” he added. “But we are not stupid.”