The idea that Carlisle United are stumbling through a period of cluelessness when it comes to their managerial plans would be easier to accept were it not for two words: David Wagner.

The bright young thing steering Huddersfield to a remarkable survival in the Premier League? The German property so hot that his club want to extend his contract, on improved terms, to fend off vultures?

Yes, him. He is relevant because the person who presided over his appointment at the John Smith's Stadium is the same man now leading Carlisle's decision-making over what happens to Keith Curle.

The hand of Nigel Clibbens at this critical stage in United's recent history is the unknown at this point. It may be all we have to cling to, in the hope that something good may come from this lingering spell of uncertainty.

Judgement-time is certainly nigh on Curle, if it has not been for some time, and surely the call must now be made either way, for the sake of the club and several individuals concerned, not to mention fans who want to know what they are being asked to back in 2018/19.

In the event of him going - an increasing prospect, it seems - assuming United will then simply stare at a blank piece of paper before dialling the numbers of out-of-work managers their directors happen to know is tempting, given how certain things have panned out at Brunton Park before.

Thinking of Clibbens as a chief executive who simply nods through such behaviour, though, may be unfair. This is the first big managerial shout of his Carlisle tenure since arriving in 2016 and, given how his last one at Huddersfield went, the benefit of the doubt is perhaps best offered.

The appointment of former Borussia Dortmund coach Wagner, in November 2015, came after a dissatisfying period which saw Mark Robins leave after one game of the 2014/15 season and Chris Powell's subsequent 14-month reign end with the Terriers in 18th place in the Championship.

Powell was not universally popular but nor was his removal celebrated by all. Huddersfield's announcement on Twitter brought forth a range of views, some of them criticising the club. A couple, bizarre as it now seems, even called for owner Dean Hoyle to go.

Wagner was hired less than 48 hours later, in a notable change of strategy. That word was all over the decision, it seems - and the rest is remarkable history at the west Yorkshire club. When Clibbens was interviewed by the local BBC at the time, his replies hinted at some deeper-rooted planning which it would be naive to assume is not occurring in some way at Carlisle now.

"We have lots of contacts, and then you use them to say, 'this is the kind of thing we're thinking about'," Clibbens said. "We trust people who understand what the club is about."

Wagner's name came up even at a time Huddersfield were not preparing to make a change, Clibbens added. "It's the normal planning any club does, so, if the time comes that you want to do something, you're ready."

The idea that Wagner was a "fit" for Huddersfield's new ideas has proved an inspired decision by all concerned. It was, Clibbens said in another interview, part of a striving to "go higher", to decline to settle for "19th, 17th, 16th every year", to do away with the assumption supporters should simply keep turning up out of loyalty. "Our way of playing, particularly at home, has not been great to watch," he added, in the post-Powell days. Headhunting the German was a radical attempt to change everything.

Now, there may be a world of difference between Huddersfield and Carlisle, even though it is only a few years since United were getting the better of the Terriers in some dramatic contests in league and cup.

While Carlisle's problems were laid bare in their recent accounts and a fans' forum which showed, to be diplomatic, some individuals in a better light than others, Huddersfield are an extraordinary success story, a tribute to Hoyle's wealth, passion and pro-active ownership as much as anything.

It would be potty to argue, then, that United could find a Wagner. But, even with their diminished outlook, could the same sort of planning not deliver something at least a bit innovative to Brunton Park too?

If Clibbens has any sort of licence, one would like to think so. The club have been adamant all along that no decision has yet been reached on Curle, and it is plain that ousting him at the end of his contract would be unpopular with many fans.

Leadership, though, is not about popularity. It is about getting things right, ideally for the long-term, and convincing with your actions.

Over 10 years of "custodian" ownership it is hard to make a case for constant helpings of the above, and the questions facing United are still fundamental, still financial, still troubling, and still go beyond things like one co-owner foolishly disclosing an injured player's wage at an open forum, and another saying one or two things with a tone that made you want to place your head in the nearest bucket of water.

They go beyond who the next "gaffer" will be, too. But the significance of that decision should not be downplayed. Nail it, and at least some of the clouds can lift. Match whatever strategy you are pushing with the ideal, available person to lead it, and you have a chance.

Be loose on either, and calamity lies in wait. That's why this is a time when the club's chief executive must really show his worth. Decisions like these may not be made by one person alone - Clibbens was not the only author of the Wagner appointment, and others at Brunton Park will want their say now - but a chief is a chief for a reason, and must be at the forefront.

Strategy again. Carlisle, first, must be clear-headed about the sort of club they want to be. If that is not apparent by now, in-house at least, then the last few weeks and months will have been a monumental waste, and those still behind Curle would be entitled to be thoroughly dismayed.

If something clearer is forming, though, around recent public remarks about producing more home-grown players and being less top-heavy with the first-team budget, then a shortlist of bright, potential bosses who can work best in these conditions must have been on someone's desk for a while.

The key, a few months from now, is that we are looking back on this as an unpleasant, stressful but necessary time of transition; the period when a relatively popular manager's reign was allowed to wind down. If Carlisle are floundering, those who feel the situation is being badly managed - and who feel extending Curle's contract is by far the most sensible option in the circumstances, and should also have been done much sooner - will certainly have their day.

Hit upon a solution that makes the most of what United have, however limited, though, and the reaction would be very different.

It is a massive call, for sure. But that is what a CEO is for. Any progress, Carlisle's chief wrote in the accounts, would have to be led primarily by "first-class coaching and management", but that must apply to the boardroom too.

Without it, the Blues in their present, precarious shape really will be screwed. No guarantees are available in any of this. But let us hope Clibbens has not lost his touch.