Getting by on less is a noble aim right up to the point where it doesn't work. Then, the policy often finds itself left in a ditch and the revolving door gets another hefty spin.

Even in the seasons when Carlisle United have been struggling, on the breadline or both, it hasn't stopped them signing players. Often, the worse it gets, the bigger the influx.

Consider 2013/14, their most recent League One campaign, which broke records for recruitment as the Blues failed to avert relegation. No opportunity to seek outside help was ignored, for all the good it ultimately did.

United were not at their most brassic then. Yet even when they were, what did they do to try and improve a gloomy picture? Sign more players.

In 1987/8, for example, when the Blues nosedived to 23rd in the fourth tier in front of crowds as low as 1,496, they used 32 players to complete the second-worst league programme in the country.

Under Ian Atkins, whose 2000/1 tenure occurred as the Knighton reign turned seriously bitter, they also needed 32 to survive. That was an improvement on the previous term, when Martin Wilkinson required 36.

All these players, to some degree, needed paying. There may have been helpful loan agreements along the way, no doubt many cut-price arrivals, the odd injury crisis that required cover and a few battlefield promotions. But ultimately, in times of trouble, the roster still increased, and this highlights the dangerous game being played at United right now, with numbers - albeit boosted by the arrivals of Regan Slater and Jerry Yates yesterday - as they are.

Carlisle's wish to spend less on the team has been long advertised by directors. Their belief that budgets aren't everything, the same. John Sheridan, this said, wants more signings - and two weeks can still be a long time in football. The picture, and what seems a sceptical public mood, could yet brighten before 2018/19 gets under way at Exeter.

At the time of writing, though, the reality of United's transition into a supposedly more sustainable club is fraught with risk. Take untried teenagers, loanees and the long-term injured from their current professional squad and you are left with 13 senior, registered players.

The hope is that Sheridan can mould a team from those, one or two of the kids train on, and the bullseye is hit with those loans. On such a basis a slimmed-down United can supposedly function.

Right now, though, this may not yet be a squad that can cope with a bad injury spell, or form issues. United simply do not have enough sure things. Sheridan plainly knows this and is trying to address it, yet to get to this stage 14 days ahead of the campaign suggests the Blues are, to an extent, scrambling.

United are also investing in Sheridan's ability to get a tune out of a limited number of instruments. This is a fair expectation to put on a manager, but only so far.

Beyond doubt he has greater pedigree than some of the bosses who led the Blues through previous hard times. He will not be frazzled by the challenge and should be able to get results from Carlisle's best XI for as long as it is available.

On paper, it has its merits, even in those who have so far under-performed. It may be that the manager has no choice but to try and rediscover, for instance, the qualities that saw Cole Stockton produce 18 goals in the 2016/17 campaign, including a run of seven in eight games in this division for Morecambe.

Each other player in those senior ranks has a certain standing. They have a goalkeeper who got a team promoted to the Championship in 2014 (Adam Collin), another centre-forward who hit 16 in the National League two terms ago (Richie Bennett) and another frontman who played for young England sides and was regarded highly by a Premier League club (Hallam Hope).

They have a vastly experienced few who have played most of their football in the third tier (Gary Liddle, Mike Jones). They have one of the most instinctively creative players anyone at this level could wish for (Jamie Devitt). They have further promotion experience in defence (Gary Miller, Tom Parkes) and another who, if his injury record can be somehow improved (Kelvin Etuhu), would bolster many a League Two midfield.

Add a couple more, such as a midfielder able enough to be considered a Manchester City prospect for many years (George Glendon), and there is a core, at least, for a good manager to work with. But only a core. What about the flesh?

There are enough people out there who feel Sheridan can sprinkle some glitter on teams previously in weak positions. This week, interviewed for Plymouth Live, the former Argyle winger Jason Banton spoke glowingly about the manager's transformative powers.

"He is the best manager that I have worked under," he said. "He gave you confidence to go out and do stuff. He thought he had a team that would beat anyone, and just picked the team that he knew could go out and beat them instead of thinking too much about the opposition. That confidence rubbed off."

Banton also said Sheridan's team was "tight", in terms of spirit, and this was in a period when Plymouth were turned from strugglers into play-off contenders.

That is, of course, one man's view, and others may think differently, but you can certainly see the common-sense aspect of Carlisle's decision to hire someone like Sheridan. Expecting the broader, low-budget, low-numbers philosophy to fly, though, is blatantly perilous, especially when you assess current supporter sentiments, which have been accompanied and reflected by a fall in season-ticket sales of more than 200.

So, even if the bottom line has been spelt out by whoever is pulling which strings the hardest at Brunton Park - owners, directors, Edinburgh Woollen Mill - let us see how that survives a bumpy period. Let us see whether, in that case, the Blues would revert to what they've always done, and find a little more from the back of the sofa to try and avert the worst possible scenarios.

Let us see whether what we are seeing now is difficult but unavoidable business sense, or a false economy. Let us see whether the stripped-back version of Carlisle United in 2018/19 will remain true to its intentions, however choppy these waters prove to be, or whether it is just a different route to more turnover, more chaos.


Debatable or unpopular decisions are par for the course at football clubs. The trick can often be how they are sold.

This week's Checkatrade Trophy sort-of draw was attended by Accrington Stanley's owner Andy Holt.

The same day, and since, Holt - a respected figure among lower-leagues fans for his open approach - was on Twitter responding to questions, complaints and criticism over his support of the controversial B Team format.

Holt will never convince everyone of his stance. A personal view is that the Checkatrade remains a menace, an enabler of the hoarding practices of the country's richest clubs.

Yet at least nobody can accuse the Accrington man of failing to be a public face and voice, or neglecting to answer for controversial calls.

By contrast, Carlisle have owners and directors with social media accounts, yet none this week could be found sticking up for the decision, taken at operational level, to start charging for mascot places in the 2018/19 campaign.

The club's media officer, as he usually does, fronted up when approached by The Cumberland News . Who else, though, was being a figurehead when the flak was flying? Who was putting themselves out there?

What is the point of social media if one is not prepared to act socially - in this case, by talking to supporters over potentially divisive topics?

It cannot be much fun finding oneself at the eye of a storm. At the same time, more respect is gained if Twitter is used all ways, not just to promote the positives.