So let us say that this is just the start. Let us imagine that the number of supporters protesting at Brunton Park today - large, small, somewhere in the middle - increases gradually. Let us consider that the cause could have legs.

What then, for the organisation who would most like to think they can be a voice and a home for Carlisle's fans?

Alternatively, another, happier direction is somehow found, and the masses follow it. Would they do so under the Carlisle United Official Supporters' Club banner, or their own?

In either respect, it is very hard to be convinced that more than the already-signed-up few hundred would take the CUOSC route. That is a serious and, some would say, potentially fatal problem for United's 17-year-old supporters' trust.

As the fanbase bubbles with dissatisfaction - again, exactly how much remains to be seen - CUOSC have failed to rouse more members. Indeed, as they admitted in their News & Star column this week, numbers are down on this time last year.

There was no stampede of new takers for board positions, despite a public appeal, and it must be significant that, when a group of people wished to bond in order to say what they think about the way United is being run, they did so separately.

Formed in 2001 to mobilise people against the Knightons, now further inside the tent at Brunton Park than ever, the organisation owning 25.4 per cent of United's holding company appears stuck between what it used to be and what it would like to be, without the clout to get there.

There is no great fundraising power. There is the permanent, uphill battle to get more folk on their books. There is also the swathe of United fans who feel CUOSC simply do not speak for them, and are not worth their time and cash.

As the Blues teeter on the brink of something in 2018/19, perhaps the nuclear question does indeed need to be asked. There are committed and passionate people inside CUOSC but if lots of supporters do not feel a supporters' group is the place for them in times of worry, how can that group be fit for purpose?

Instead of trying to grow it from within, is the frustrating state of affairs better served by pulling it down, and starting again?

The group would argue, correctly, that they have paid more for their shareholding in the Blues than other owners. A fan group retaining a significant piece of their club is, broadly speaking, too important to shelve lightly.

Yet what could be more significant about CUOSC's ongoing lack of muscle than the fact they are still recording their thanks - as occurred in their latest annual general meeting - for the late Brooks Mileson's six-figure donation, which enabled them to raise their stake?

That occurred in 2004. After this summer's directors' fans forum, co-owner Steven Pattison was mocked for boasting of the financial contribution he made to enable the 2003 signing of Stuart Green. Yet CUOSC's major (and, yes, more substantial) outlay remains of a similar era.

Whatever the journey, whatever the power in years past, Carlisle are facing an uncertain, unknowable future. What they need is strength and unity now, not yesterday.

Not in the post-war 1950s, either - the era referenced by CUOSC in an official comment made in response to a supporter's complaint over the state of Brunton Park. Back then, they said, Bill Shankly led an "industrious workforce" of fans, players, staff and press in sprucing up the dilapidated stadium, and why could that not happen again?

It was, with respect, hardly the sort of nostalgia trip likely to absorb those with concerns over the way Carlisle is being steered today. And those who do investigate that period further will know it wasn't always a utopia, considering Shankly left for Grimsby because of a lack of funds, and the spirit of club-community sharing was so pure that his predecessor, Ivor Broadis, found that a shady club director, having bought a cooker for a new signing, decided to keep it for himself.

The truth is that, although crowds are now much lower than in Shankly's day, a community is still out there, with an instinct to help. Remember when Brunton Park was attacked by the Beast from the East earlier this year - and, much more grievously, Storm Desmond in 2015?

People dropped what they were doing and turned up to assist. The difference between this, and imagining a volunteer workforce motivated to maintain the ground routinely, could not be more obvious. Expecting people to be ready to do this for relatively well-off owners, having already paid their £22 at the gate, is risible.

This season United is a place of different influences, different politics, a certain unsettled feeling in some departments, and a stripped-back budget that has also stripped back a few delusions. It may have removed the fig-leaf of a potent, promotion-chasing football team (unless John Sheridan can work serious magic) and that ought to trouble those at the top.

It may be bringing a colder reality home.

A community club means treating people as part of that community. It boils down to talking their language and taking up their cause. It does not mean, as this regime has in past years, making a hamfisted go at accommodating an independent fan representative, and it does not, to be frank, entail the fans' trust saluting a co-owner for "raising the profile" of Carlisle United in some vague way in high football circles while the rank and file are asking about moss on the stands and holes in the squad.

Nor does it involve the same group being so pathetically inactive on social media that it need not be there at all, if a supporter cannot approach it online with firm, legitimate complaint and receive a direct response, and a welcoming embrace, rather than a silent wait, followed by a remote statement.

United, from above, obviously need a new sense of direction to take to the terraces. Fans, meanwhile, need throughout to be regarded as grown-ups, with representatives they can believe in.

If they do not see the current ones that way - and has a club ever had a greater number of supporter bodies, yet so many followers out there who still feel without a home? - then at some stage, provided apathy can be overcome, they will eventually make their own.

In which case, it will have to be asked, what is the point of the thing they are deliberately and passionately ignoring?


A prediction: Carlisle United will play well against their Championship visitors Blackburn Rovers next Tuesday night. Encouragingly well, maybe.

It is among the safest bets around when considering the Blues at this time of year.

The League Cup's first round, a freeish hit against higher opposition. When was the last time they flopped, whether in good or poor campaigns?

Last season, they were gutsy against Sunderland. The previous year, superior to Port Vale, and in the next round relentless at Derby.

The campaign before that, they had too much for Chesterfield (then QPR, then very nearly Liverpool).

All those games were against sides from at least one division up. Even in the worst of times at the end of Greg Abbott's reign and the start of Graham Kavanagh's, they fronted up well in the first cup outings of term.

The alarming decline at the start of 2013/14 was, after all, interrupted by an epic win over Blackburn, while Kavanagh's doomed side looked capable even in a televised defeat to Derby 12 months later.

It seems that no matter what the general picture, a cup tie at this time of year loosens shackles, encourages United's players to go for their shots.

It can be a wholly deceptive guide towards future league form, which ought to be remembered if the positive reviews do start flying around in three days' time. But who, at present, would turn down a little stress-free fun?