COMING from Motherwell stock, the quandary of who to back in The Championship play-off at the weekend between Hamilton and Airdrieonians was rather like being asked who you would prefer to have an affair with your wife, your brother or your best friend. Sophie’s choice, right enough.

As it transpired, Airdrie came out on top after a last-gasp equaliser and an eventual triumph on penalties, meaning that Accies slip down into League One, the latest staging point in their fall from grace as the Premiership’s great perennial survivors.

The reasons behind their seemingly inexorable slide from a high point of topping the Scottish top-flight in October 2014 to where they now find themselves are plentiful, with supporters pointing the finger at the club’s hierarchy for their decision-making and regularly accusing them of running Accies like amateurs.

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From top to bottom this is a club that appears at war with themselves and each other. Far from a collective effort all pulling in one direction, it is a club characterised by being at one another’s throats.

It all came to a head during the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Alloa, as former Hamilton boss Brian Rice’s side went two ahead at New Douglas Park, and three ahead in the tie. A baying mob of furious Hamilton fans voiced their displeasure, with a few of them taking their abuse far beyond the acceptable parameters.

Threats of rape towards manager John Rankin’s wife, wishes of excruciating death by cancer aimed at owner Colin McGowan, there seemed no depths that a minority of Accies fans would not plumb. The club were right to call such despicable actions out, with McGowan publishing a nine-minute video on social media during the week in response.

But while it is absolutely understandable that those in charge of the club would want to call out these Neanderthals, there is also no escaping the fact that it isn’t the first time those in power at Accies have taken aim at their own fans, and that the furore rather allowed them to create a distraction and avoid too much examination of their own faults.

It is a curious strategy when you have just a few hundred season ticket holders to sustain you that you would constantly place yourself at loggerheads with them, but that is consistently what the Hamilton board seem to have done.

Even yesterday, as an acknowledgment of their relegation to the third tier was eventually sent out on their social media channel, there was no apology forthcoming for the team’s abject performance over the course of the season. Though, at least there was a token note of thanks to the small rump of fans who have followed them through thin and thinner.

“At the risk of stating the obvious, yesterday wasn’t a good day,” the statement read.

“Regardless of how it occurred nobody wants a relegation. We were last relegated into League 1 in 1999 (and would then drop to League 2) but within 9 years of that 1999 relegation we were in the top division…

“We start again, we work hard and we all aim to get promoted as soon as possible. With thanks to all our supporters for their backing this season, and we hope to see you following us next season.”

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Predictably, that went down like a cup of cold sick with their brassed-off fanbase. What was the message supposed to be, that in nine years everything will be ok?

It could be argued that poor communication between the club and fans is a side issue, and shouldn’t really affect what happens on the pitch. But it certainly doesn’t help, and it contributes to the situation Accies have now where club and support are on completely different pages.

When fans wanted contrition and a clear plan of action, instead they got, well, not a lot really.

McGowan seems a decent man, dedicated to the charitable work for which he is renowned. But there can be no escaping the fact that his stewardship of Accies has seen the club veer wildly off course in recent years, and that the best thing for all parties would be a parting of the ways.

Mercifully, McGowan himself realises this fact too, and in his video address last week he made three promises to supporters that offer the tiniest sliver of hope amid the doom and gloom.

"First, I'm going to work very hard to find a new custodian and there are possibilities,” McGowan said.

"At 68, I feel the club may need someone younger with fresh ideas and with the football club sold, it will give me more time for the charity work that I have always made clear to be my passion.”

For both McGowan as a human being, and Hamilton as a club, this has to be the priority.

Furthermore, he has vowed that his property company that own New Douglas Park will offer a 50-year lease to the new owners, whoever they may be. Finally, he vowed that the fans responsible for the vile chants aimed at both him and manager Rankin would be banned for life.

I don’t think any fair-minded Hamilton fan could argue that if these things all come to pass, it would be for the best.

The club needs detoxified from top to bottom, and whoever the new owners are, they must make re-establishing a bond with the fans their top priority. Without unity, a community club like Hamilton will go nowhere. Except, perhaps, to oblivion, where they are currently heading at a rate of knots.