Surely, for the first time in their history, the most powerful person at Carlisle United at the onset of a new campaign doesn't go to their games, and doesn't even profess to like football.

"At", on reflection, is probably the wrong word, since Philip Day is not to be found walking the corridors of Brunton Park. But this summer his presence has loomed greatly and no bigger question concerns Cumbria's only professional football club than what the county's richest man - who prefers rugby, as a rule - would like to do with it.

The answer, at present, can only be groped at through hints, small actions and a large dollop of speculation. Day's Edinburgh Woollen Mill firm have loaned United money since March 2017. This summer their group financial controller became a club director.

Other Day connections, such as David Holdsworth - for the last month unofficial resolver of transfer "politics", as of yesterday director of football - are also now in the building. Do not be surprised if further individuals, linked to the billionaire, next join the fray.

What this appears to suggest is that EWM, who coincidentally are in the process of moving headquarters to Carlisle, are becoming more active with what has so far been sold simply as a helping hand to a community club. Whether this is the foreplay ahead of ownership change is the great unanswered.

What it certainly is, though, is a thick layer of intrigue at a time of cost-cutting "transition" at Brunton Park. Intrigue because so little has been, or can be, said about the involvement of United's main lenders, who do not as yet hold any shares. In some parts of the stadium, carpets have been replaced by eggshells. Speaking out of turn, or too much, about the EWM situation appears a big no-no.

Day, beyond doubt, has not become so successful and wealthy by giving interviews. Interpreting his and his firm's movements is often a game other people have to play. It is inevitable, in this respect, to wonder whether certain principles behind EWM's saving of stricken high-street clothing stores are going to be applied somehow to the Blues.

A rare interview, given to The Sunday Times last year, contained a description of Day as a "tough operator" - an affable man yet ruthless with his pennies. The piece reflected on the "hard-nosed restructuring — better sourcing, cost-cutting and store reshuffling" which has turned EWM into a success story and seen them rescue "basket-case" and "horrifically mismanaged" firms.

“Sometimes you have to cut the finger off to save the hand, but the idea is once the hand is saved you can re-grow the finger,” Day said. From a distance, one wonders what he made of United's hands, and the rest of the body for that matter, in order for him to step in as he has, over and above EWM's long-standing sponsorship.

Supporters, for the moment, are left to guess. Fans like to be sold a dream, but one has not yet been articulated at Brunton Park. This summer's strategy on the ground has been to slash what directors have decided was excessive spending on the team, and try to get by on less.

The theory is that becoming more efficient, as those in the boardroom would no doubt like to see it, will make the club more investable. The reality, though, also depends on getting lots of smaller decisions right, or better. Either way, these may indeed be the days of "short-term pain" before the imagined "long-term gain", as described by fans' group CUOSC.

As 2018/19 kicks off, the challenge is somehow to make the most of these cold circumstances. For the first time since Neil McDonald in 2006, the Blues start a season with a newly-appointed manager: John Sheridan, whose vast experience will be needed to plot a positive path on his limited budget.

After "mysterious" Keith Curle, with his quirky sayings, restless persona and a record of 20th, 10th, sixth and 10th, comes a boss with seemingly earthier qualities. Do not expect Curle-esque streams of consciousness from Sheridan in press conferences. Anticipate answers to be sent back down the middle, rather than the scenic route.

On the pitch, he must tap into some of the best of his managerial career (title with Chesterfield, play-offs with Plymouth, superb rescue job at Fleetwood) in order to help a small squad prosper. United have more teenage professionals than before - also a consequence of the budget shift - but not too much in reserve where hardened experience is concerned.

This lack of slack, should injuries bite, is an obvious worry; how United would respond to a difficult start, in word and deed, would also be interesting. Who would be accountable, given the different influences now in play? How actively supporters would register disapproval, too - though perhaps not through the CUOSC route, given they appear further inside the tent than ever.

If, alternatively, it goes well, it will be a tribute to the skill of a certain few. Miracles should not be expected of Sheridan but it is fair to ask the 53-year-old to make the Blues competitive in a traditionally inconsistent division.

His staff, which includes the welcome Cumbrian presence of Paul Murray, will not want for know-how or ambition. Sheridan's signings so far have a mixture of experience and raw potential. The gambles, on loanees like Joe Fryer, Regan Slater and Jerry Yates, will have to pay off. At least one of five home-grown teenagers in the ranks will surely have to train on, too.

Instinct says United can field a best XI capable of holding their own. Jamie Devitt, their most creative player, ought to grow further in influence. A prolific goalscoring threat is not immediately obvious, but there should be no lack of tactical discipline.

Expectations on the terraces are probably at their lowest for a while. This will be a fifth consecutive season in League Two, hopes of a temporary stay after 2014's relegation long since dashed. Carlisle's most prolonged stint in the basement division in the post-Division Three North era is the eight-campaign stretch from 1987 to 1995. Then came six, from 1998 to 2004, when they dipped into the Conference.

Events have tended to take the Blues up or down eventually. The hope is that the 20th anniversary of the Jimmy Glass miracle is not marked by an equivalent struggle, or something as heart-stopping as that to avert ultimate failure. It is also that organisation, togetherness, consistency and a certain knack from the man hired to replace Curle, can conspire to make the outlook much brighter than it seems to some.

Until any positive work unfolds, though, it would be foolish to expect supporters' enthusiasm to run wild. Season-ticket sales have fallen, the stadium continues to look its age - worse, in some parts - and vibrancy is not what you associate with the "custodian" ownership regime (Andrew Jenkins, Steven Pattison, John Nixon), now more than 10 years at the helm.

Scrutiny will, no doubt, be applied to all of these matters, and other matchday features, like catering, which again had some serious problems last season, and the condition of some of Brunton Park's shabbier public areas. The long wait for a new kit - whose purple away colour was chosen by the CUSG supporters' groups - has been predictably underwhelming. A decision to charge up to £50 for the right to be a mascot also courted controversy, although the media officer, Andy Hall, did a good job of explaining the club's changed position.

Others could follow his lead and engage better. The club's community work will continue to set a positive example, but the Blues, overall, still need fewer mysteries, not more; fewer grounds for concern, not more. It is asking a lot, above all, for fans to wait quietly until a bolder vision emerges, and in the meantime suck up this uncertain interim.

This, though, is where they are. As ever, the football ought to be a release, not the cause of stress, yet given this is Carlisle United, it will not be dull, as surely as night follows day.