Talk, plainly, isn’t everything. If it was, Carlisle United would be celebrating their 18th year as a Premier League club (Michael Knighton) while their former manager reflected on a long stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland (Roddy Collins).

In football, one can easily become hostage to a reckless prediction. Perhaps this is why Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the Blues’ backers, have said so little about their involvement in United affairs.

At least nobody will accuse them of making promises they can’t keep. Nobody would thank Philip Day’s firm for steaming in with bold designs that prove impossible to deliver.

Better, perhaps, to stay silent until this fact-finding period - if that is what it is - becomes more developed. Keep the blueprint in the bottom drawer.

This, though, walks straight into a presumption, which is a recurring feature of United’s relations with EWM. In reality, few people know if there is a blueprint, or alternatively a blank sheet of A4.

Without anyone saying so, how are we to know? More importantly, what are we to think?

Saying nothing is still saying nothing, after all, and it is beyond debate that EWM have been only as transparent as they have had to be. There was no statement or comment at the time their “loan facility” to United emerged through a Companies House filing some 20 months ago. There was barely a line when their finance man was appointed a Blues director this summer.

There has been nothing about the level of debt. Nothing about the appointment of John Sheridan. Nothing about where this season is going, with or without (spoiler: it’s with) their influence.

Only the extremely relaxed can be totally comfortable with this: United tied so closely to a firm whose plans are barely known - not just to supporters, but the club. Jim Mitchell, one of CUOSC’s board representatives, recently commented that “it would be helpful to fans and the club if EWM made their future intentions clear”, adding that United are “in limbo”regarding the possibility of new investment.

Against this, CUOSC’s chair John Kukuc said EWM “had already shown their hand” with continued financial backing. In terms of keeping the club alive this may be the case, while it is known they are assisting United’s commercial and retail areas, alongside other behind-scenes changes involving David Holdsworth, the director of football.

Beyond that? Nobody knows, and even if this is a slow step to takeover (another presumption) how can it be healthy when such an influential party remains unaccountable to United’s fans?

It is, as many have said, far-fetched to think they simply wished to be a bank for a struggling club. Their money is secured against United’s assets, and as the debt rises (its current amount unconfirmed) it starts to look like ownership by default.

These, though, are aspects we can all calculate in our sleep, let alone a businessman like Day. It is detail that is scarce.

It is the deeper question – what is in it for them, longer-term?

We might feel that their money is good, and clean; not always the case with tycoons attracted to the game. We might know that they have put a large flag down in this city with the opening of substantial new headquarters.

We might also believe that, if they are flexing the odd muscle inside Brunton Park, it is hard, given the last decade’s path, to feel much sympathy when the existing owners continue to pick up the tab of public opinion.

These might indeed be some jigsaw pieces for what fans would regard as a positive outcome: wealthy backers, committed to the area, proven business brains, a new handle on direction. With so few morsels on the table, though, we cannot rule out the possibility that EWM would prove terrible owners, too. Football can be a vortex of ideas and money. What big decisions would they make to put United on a successful course? Who would make them?

Until we know, we are left to read between lines. In an address given to supporters’ groups by Kevin Dobinson, a businessman close to Day who is helping commercially, two reasons were cited why sponsors were holding back from the Blues. One was “Brexit”. The other: “ownership issues”.

Given the slick job the government is making of the former, it may be a stretch to think United can affect that. The latter, though, is in-house, and by far the most interesting part of Dobinson’s contribution was that it was an acceptance from someone with significant connections that concerns about the top of Brunton Park were working against the club.

How EWM and Day interpret this information would fascinate. We may not find out, though, until something major happens. The reason there was a stir of interest in the Sunday papers last week, when it was reported Day could appear at the Stobart Group/Andrew Tinkler court battle, was because so little is routinely heard from him.

That is his right – and there must be more to this than a wish to fill column inches and airtime. Yet it is hard to argue that United wouldn’t benefit, in due course, from someone a few links down the chain saying at least something about what might become of this community club, which is not, it must be said, living in prosperous times.

If people are not yet kneeling in gratitude, it is plain enough why. It is because, with the best will in the world, there is still no way of knowing exactly what United are getting themselves into here, other than debt.


All eras, even the difficult ones, have someone you could describe as being part of Carlisle United’s fabric and there should be no further doubt that Danny Grainger is today’s man.

On the pitch, the Blues’ longest-serving player can be underestimated no longer given the way his return from injury has coincided with a sudden improvement in form.

With Grainger, though, it is not just an effective player coming back but someone plugged into the heart of Brunton Park - and while his left foot is his main asset to United today, the club would be wise to think about tomorrow too.

By their nature, many players are passing through, yet with Grainger this is not the case – as demonstrated in the summer, when there was another example of his wider value.

It was United’s academy awards night, held at a time when the defender’s future was far from resolved.

Yes, it was likely Grainger would be staying. But a period of uncertainty had unsettled a great many and there was much still to be agreed.

The easy option, when invited to present awards and talk to an audience of parents and young players, would have been to say no – not until I’m sorted.

Instead, Grainger stood up as a constant in a period of upheaval.

His involvement in other community activities is also well-known, and United are always better for having these types who embed themselves into the club.

There is, after all, something reassuring when you observe the long-standing commitment of a John Halpin or a Neil Dalton, despite all the many and varied higher goings-on.

Whatever the future holds for Grainger, it would be a great shame if it is not here, in some significant capacity.