Carlisle United’s chief executive Nigel Clibbens insists the club’s main financial backers Edinburgh Woollen Mill are “aware” of fans’ feelings despite remaining silent on their involvement with the Blues.

Clibbens said United had a “really positive” relationship with billionaire Philip Day’s firm, who have loaned the Blues more than £1.3m since March 2017.

He said EWM did not want to be “front and centre” in terms of saying more to fans or being at the forefront of Brunton Park.

But, amid questions over their longer-term intentions, Clibbens admitted the situation “will have to come to a head eventually”.

Responding to questions on EWM’s approach at a fans’ forum at Brunton Park, the Blues director said: “However you label investment, you can see from our accounts that they [EWM] provide us with significant amounts of cash, which allows David [Holdsworth] and Steven [Pressley] to get players they wouldn't otherwise be able to get – that makes this club better than it would be without their involvement.

“EWM have done everything this board has asked of them, but it doesn't mean there is a blank cheque.

“They want the club to be a success but in the right way, closer to the community, and they want the fans to be happier.

“Fans might want more words from them, but they've seen other clubs with people coming in – they want to help, and get to know the club before doing anything.

“What that might be long term, I don't know. In the short-term they're giving the club every support it needs.

“Investment is coming from them, but they don’t shout about it.”

On the same subject, Clibbens said of the long-term funding of United: “It will have to come to a head eventually. [But] I'm really positive about the relationship.”

Pressed by one supporter on a perceived lack of “leadership” and “strategy” at United, Clibbens said chairman Andrew Jenkins remained United’s main figurehead.

On strategy, he added: “[Those things] happen day-to-day – it might not be as visible as people might want, and they want clarity, because of EWM and their significant role.

“We’re in their hands as a club. All we can do on the board is make sure they’re aware of the feelings of the fans.

“There's a potential out there, a craving, and it's waiting to be unlocked. They're aware of that and in time we'll see what that brings. At the moment they don't want to be front and centre in leading the club.”

United’s financial approach was questioned by supporters, with director of football David Holdsworth – who has close connections to EWM – facing questions on the contract lengths they have been awarding recently.

On the latter, Holdsworth said: “To make sure we have a balance on recruitment for next year, all those players [we have signed] have an option to remain next year.

“If they perform, and we have an option on retaining the player, we'll consider it at length and come to a conclusion.”

He added that it was a ”myth” Carlisle were simply giving out one-year deals with no potential for squad continuity.

Referring to summer signing Christie Elliott as a “Rolls Royce,” Holdsworth said: “If he continues to progress, he will be offered to remain next year.”

He added that it makes things easier to have people on longer deals, but some contracts last year were “crippling” to the club.

Holdsworth was challenged about his own role, with a fan suggesting that only Carlisle in the lower leagues have a director of football – something disputed by Clibbens and manager Steven Pressley.

Holdsworth, meanwhile, said: “The reason I was asked to come in here wasn't just the football policy, it was to guide the club into a safer element in terms of expenditure.

“It had overspent in prior years. With respect to previous decisions, the club was in a position where it hadn't managed to manage the books in the right way.”

He referred to the “consequences” of past, heavier spending not succeeding and the need to “address” the difficulties it had caused.

“We’re in a far better place now.”

He also claimed he had the right credentials to help Carlisle avoid getting into a perilous financial position “having managed two clubs that almost went bust”.

Clibbens, meanwhile, said Holdsworth’s involvement counters past criticism that United lacked “football expertise” in advising the board.

He said United’s owners are “good men, who want success and want to back their managers. In the past they've gone with the flow of their manager

“We've decided to do things differently. We now have David, who can give the board a football view of the opinions coming from the manager. That is core to this. It helps us get an alternative view. It is to help us get a better bang for our buck.

“Last season we were able to reduce the budget but still recruit good players and get good performance on the pitch. Having David in the club is making a positive difference – it’s helping the board and Steven.”

Pressley also said Holdsworth deals with things like agents and contracts – “aspects that can cause friction between manager and player. It allows me to manage the player purely on a personal and football level, which is a good thing.”

United’s summer dealings also came in for supporter scrutiny.

Holdsworth said Pressley had been “very methodical with his profiling for each position” in terms of recruitment. He said United had had “an abundance” of players they could have signed, but Pressley was focused on the targets he felt worth waiting for.

“Waiting is not always easy and I appreciate people want players through the door. But we've supported Steven 100 per cent on his policy,” he said.

One supporter asked why United had failed to retain star midfielder Jamie Devitt, who turned down a new contract and joined Blackpool.

Holdsworth said: “We admire Jamie's attributes. Steven wants to play a certain way. But first and foremost, Jamie was made a very good offer, was the first person I spoke to in the summer, and he turned it down very quickly. His agent decided he was going elsewhere.

“Jamie went through a tricky spell at Christmas, where he fell out with John Sheridan. [At that time] I didn’t have one phonecall for Jamie. He got his best football at Carlisle, and Steven got the best out of him.

“We wanted him to stay, 100 per cent, but the answer came that he wanted to move on.”

Pressley also said he had been able to focus on a more familiar style of play in light of Devitt leaving.

“With the type of player he is, he has certain qualities,” United’s boss said. “To play Jamie, you have to play a certain way and formation to allow him to flourish.

“Once we heard Jamie wasn't staying, we've adopted a different way, a dynamic way, a system I've played in the past – a different system than one that would have suited Jamie Devitt.”

The sale of young winger Liam McCarron to Leeds was also raised.

Holdsworth said the teenager’s rapid progress came after United tried to address the previous “separation” between the club’s youth and first-team squads, which had not seen great integration.

“My first conversation with Leeds was respectful,” Holdsworth said. “[I said] we see his future here. Then we got him under a longer contract, but I told his parents we wouldn't stand in his way if a big bid came in.

“I had lots of conversations with several clubs and turned down a large bid. I told the chairman [Jenkins] we were holding out for a bit more. On the Saturday morning we had a discussion, on the Monday held out for a bit more, and we got it.”

Challenged on a perceived lack of transparency as a result of the “undisclosed” fee, Holdsworth said: “Leeds don't want to disclose how much they spend. It will come out in the books, but we have to respect that.”

He said McCarron’s agent – understood to be ex-Blues favourite David Reeves – dealt with the transfer “respectfully and properly”.

He did, though, refer to some agents around young players as “sharks in the water”.

On the financial terms of McCarron’s departure, he added: “If the young man goes on and does well, we will be looked after extremely well.”

All those on the panel, meanwhile, were asked where they saw United this time next year.

Coach Nathan Rooney was first to answer and said: “We're all sat here to be hopeful. With the work done behind the scenes, good recruitment, sustainabilty, staff giving extra, it's a big push for the top end. Keep players fit, with a brilliant training programme...I can see us hitting the hopes this season.”

Pressley then said the priority was on “working hard to provide football that's good to watch – anything on top of that's a bonus.”

Clibbens said United’s “aspiration” was to get promoted. “It's a tough target, everyone's trying for it, but that's what it's all about.”

Holdsworth said the aim was “simple – promotion” with Skelton saying the “top end of the table” was the goal.

Keeper coach Craig Wight said his own wish was “to continue to help the club, goalkeepers and everyone enjoy what we do. Promotion - I really don't care, as long as everyone enjoys themselves and we all have a good time doing it.”