In Nicky Adams' best season at Carlisle - his first, before 2017/18 was ruined by injury - the Blues averaged a little over 5,000 for league games at Brunton Park.

This is its own small example of what the club must now confront, and why, now that the winger has gone, some good news is going to have to seep out of those ancient walls pretty soon.

There are not many players from recent years who would have commanded a place in Carlisle's promotion teams of the mid-nineties and mid-noughties. Adams, though, was unquestionably one.

Could you see him in the side of Reeves and Thomas and Currie and Hayward? Or the similarly golden XI of Bridges and Hawley and Lumsdon and Gray?

You bet. Adams brought star quality, there is no question of that. Where League Two is concerned, he was as close as you could get to a sure thing - assists on demand, a front foot, on-his-toes playing style and the sense that, when he was in the team, Carlisle were on the move, on the up, no longer unsure of their place.

Yet even then, in a season mostly spent around the promotion places, people were not surging down Warwick Road to see this upwardly-mobile side with their surefire entertainer.

There was a certain increase, yes, but not the sort of gates that the Blues may have expected when committing enough of their budget to make Adams an early summer signing in 2016, with a serious challenge in mind.

May 24th: that's when Adams became a Carlisle player. The equivalent of next Thursday. It was as close as United have got to walking into a room and slapping their wad down on the table for many years.

It was a statement of intent, of ambition, even of affluence, however precarious hindsight now makes that look. There was a swagger about some of United's behaviour in the market two years ago.

Yet still they didn't come, not as much as they might have in past eras, and nothing now better reflects the problem United now have when trying to reshape their squad on a budget.

If there was no major increase in numbers when they were spending (they thought) on success, doling out bonuses the equal of many clubs in League One to players guaranteed to excite, how are they to tantalise the fanbase now, on relative scraps?

Can an eyecatching choice of manager be expected to do this alone? Is it really fair to expect the next boss, whoever he is, to reconnect the club to its people simply by the power of personality, reputation and a good contacts book?

Or does something more have to be recognised here: the reasons why Keith Curle's successor will be clocking on for the graveyard shift at Cumbria's only professional club - a period of tighter belts and diminished expectations, until something more sustainable comes along?

At United's recent annual general meeting, chief executive Nigel Clibbens bemoaned a "scepticism" that seems to attach itself to club affairs, to the extent that it was also how people were looking at the current financial relationship with Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

"I prefer to look at it positively," Clibbens said. But why might that scepticism be?

Might it be, as much as anything, that Carlisle are nearing a 10-year anniversary of "custodian" ownership and now having to spin a vision of austerity from mid-table in the fourth tier, having slid from the brink of the Championship in that time?

Might some of the scepticism also come from debacles like the "billionaire" saga, which many people always felt would have a lingering effect on trust the longer it went embarrassingly on?

Might it come from those unresolved aspects of the "matchday experience" which, shamefully, were still rearing their heads on the final game of 2017/18?

Might it come from a pattern some fans feel they have seen before, in other decades, when the good times were fleeting and then we had to buckle in for a much bumpier journey?

Might it come from the realisation that a "business model", touted when these owners took charge in 2008, was not, in fact, designed for vibrant progress towards second tier, as per the sell, but for consolidation - of club and individuals - at best?

Might it come from the failure, so far, to turn talk of a new ground into the smallest brick of reality, nearly seven years since it was confidently mooted. Might it come from similar talk about chasing new investment?

Might it come from the public (and, in other ways, less so) displays of certain people at the helm, when it comes to the matter of representing Carlisle United in the best possible way, to its lifeblood?

Might it come when people think of the club losing half a million a year just to get here, and start asking about how it was sanctioned, and how and where it was and wasn't spent? Might it come from how a number of folk also regard the performance, and clout, of their supporters' trust?

So scepticism - yes, it probably would hang around, and in this context it will probably tag along even when an extremely wealthy party instigates a "loan facility", whose lendings are surely now comfortably into seven figures, yet who have so far declined to utter a word about what it might all mean.

If people have, for a while, had a job in believing in aspects of United then there are enough reasons why - and this is before you get down into the managerial debate, about whether Curle was profligate or under-supported, and whether his successor needs to be a more straightforward operator, or Merlin in a tracksuit.

The next man shall certainly have to be many things, not least a salesman on many fronts. In the market, and on the training pitch, he will also have to work like a demon to restore a sense of intrigue to Carlisle's team, and then convince the people that Brunton Park is the only possible place to be of a weekend.

The fact, though, that not enough bought that ticket even when one of the club's most reliably talented players in years was on show ought to be the clearest bell ringing in certain ears right now.

It is fair to hope that people will reconnect to some degree at the sight of a fresh face in the dugout, but not to expect the public regeneration of the club to be a one-person task.

That would be a lot to ask of any man, especially one under orders to shop in cheaper aisles. Ideally, he will prove the highly-skilled, energetic, creative and motivated chief United need.

Ideally, the leap of faith can be made and the terraces will swell again. But if they don't, will those calling the shots have anywhere else to look for the answers?


THE first we knew, publicly, about the expected timing of Carlisle United's managerial decision was through an email from Nigel Clibbens to a supporter which the latter was good enough to pass on.

Before anything more official, or widespread, came the revolutionary idea of someone asking a question and receiving a reply.

Hats off to the fan who did the asking. And, while better strategy would surely have been club statement first, emails later, it is at least creditable that Clibbens found time to respond, with the information that a decision would be made by the middle of next week.

Anything that challenges the impression of a bunker mentality at the top of Brunton Park has to be good. Clibbens, who has replied to several other emails recently, as well as making detailed contributions to the club's recent accounts, appears to grasp that disclosure, where possible, is always appreciated.

As ever it is the meat rather than the message that matters the most. If the club remains on the bones of its backside, with a manager who turns out to be a dud, then an email here and there won't count for much.

But, as a principle, the more doors that remain open, the better. Real progress, of course, will come when we no longer feel the need to comment on this level of sharing, because it's the norm.