The football Steven Pressley imagined he could one day bring to Carlisle United collided too often with a different reality. Pressley wished to manage the Blues for the long term but did not put enough meat on the table today to convince people there would be all that jam tomorrow.

Like most sacked managers, he is a victim above all of results. Strip away philosophies, visions and GPS tracking stats and the cold truth is that Pressley took the Blues from sixth to 19th in a mediocre fourth tier, in the space of 10 months.

Many supporters will identify a cast of culprits for that. Some scoff at the idea United, in their present shape, are simply one better manager away from soaring again.

Those at the top certainly have their own questions to answer and will now be invited to reflect hard on, among other things, last season’s slump from the promotion race, for which Pressley – initially a short-term hire – was rewarded with a new deal, only for results to continue down the same bad path.

Carlisle, Pressley said in the summer, were operating with a bottom six budget. If that is the case the next man in the chair must conjure something beyond the Blues’ means. That is not an entirely unreasonable demand, as long as it has a basis in realism. Pressley, by this autumn, had not been able to lift a new team above their low station and on the grounds that directors never sack themselves, it was always likely to be his backside on the bacon-slicer, to quote Mick McCarthy.

His win percentage of 31 per cent was sub-par, his points-per-game ratio (1.17) that of a struggling side. Pressley felt Carlisle would take “years” to become a strong operation again, and felt a healthy youth system was the best way to achieve this, but few managers are allowed to build dynasties these days.

United’s previous boss, John Sheridan, was the nomad’s nomad, a Mr Right Now who delivered average results initially and then a few stunning ones, before clearing off just as influential loan players were also heading out.

Any sympathy for Pressley will refer to this period, when he accepted the job in January yet had to sustain a promotion challenge with many of his best tools suddenly missing. United tried, and failed, to recruit players who were just as effective, and when backed to oversee this season’s low-budget makeover, Pressley suffered inevitable difficulties.

In his mind’s eye, Carlisle would line up in 4-3-3 formation and, as a “high-energy, high-pressing” team, outrun League Two’s better-heeled sides. It never really happened for long enough in games, and the scramble to avert deeper crisis led to formation and selection changes, and a sense of trying to cope, rather than push on confidently.

There was, it is safe to say, a sense of patience being tested when funds were requested, and found, for the signing of defender Gethin Jones in mid-September. Certain sources said that was a last favour to a manager whose previous rearguard additions had not made United secure.

Again – many will look beyond that and to the tight financial ship they are supposedly steering. The debate over contract lengths and the limited attractiveness of a move to Brunton Park as a consequence will air again. United are a club owned by long-serving people but also, to an extent, operated remotely, by financial backers Edinburgh Woollen Mill, whose influence is exerted in and around the building (David Holdsworth, Kevin Dobinson) but also from many miles away, via Philip Day.

Do not expect EWM the business to comment on these latest affairs. More chance of an audience with the Pope, as they say. Judge them by their actions, United chief executive Nigel Clibbens said recently. No doubt supporters shall.

Fans’ trust CUOSC, who have called for a “quick appointment”, described this era as one of “financial sobriety”. In recent months it has left a fair headache. It took Carlisle to the brink of their worst losing run for 11 years. It took them to a defeat against Keith Curle’s Northampton when, in front of a low Tuesday crowd, fans chanted against manager and board.

Given their lowly position, that night felt like a portal to bad old times, such as the early 1990s. United sacked a manager then, too, but did not get immediately better.

Pressley certainly had his supporters and, in some areas, with good reason. In the main he was a friendly person to deal with, happy to converse with fans and, from personal experience, decent and accommodating from a press point of view.

Others in the media may share different stories – his post-match radio interview at Plymouth, and its feisty aftermath, betrayed a shortening fuse under pressure – but, by and large, he spoke to you on the level. He impressed Carlisle with the detail of his presentations when pursuing the job, and was urbane and convincing in fans’ forums.

His commitment to youth was there in word and deed. Jarrad Branthwaite will not forget the manager who gave him his debut, just as Kyle Dempsey recalls Graham Kavanagh. Liam McCarron was sold early into his pro career and Josh Galloway before his had even begun. Pressley often included other tyros in his squad, as well as taking a worthwhile gamble on Mo Sagaf from non-league. All this ticked boxes laid out by the club when searching for Sheridan’s replacement.

The here-and-now, though, suffered too many problems. Pressley liked defending his players publicly, yet some interviews were too detached from reality. Talking up the physical “data” of a 4-2 home defeat to Crewe was never going to wash. “Amazing” was a stock phrase but too often it jarred against the evidence of one’s own eyes.

To a degree by necessity, to a degree by choice, he put faith in certain individuals who have not delivered. Some of those he signed in the summer have been deeply disappointing. Others have not found, or been guided towards, consistency. Several are young, and in need of more reliable support in certain areas of the pitch. Some, it must be said, just do not look good enough.

United were at their best under Pressley when upending Bury and Lincoln in the spring. Then, they played with bite. Notably missing since then has been the injured Kelvin Etuhu, whose midfield muscle has rarely been a quality on show in 2019/20.

Carlisle were supposed to be a better set-piece team this season. They have got worse. The departures of Anthony Gerrard and Tom Parkes were meant to be followed by a sleeker, sharper defence; they have kept three clean sheets in 17 league games. The policy of “patience” on a main loan striker was intended to be worth the wait. It was not.

That Pressley’s best winning run in the league started and ended with his first two games also tells a certain tale and so, in the short-term, a new boss will have to build on the best of what he left – reliables like Adam Collin and Mike Jones, the precocious Branthwaite and the quietly steady Gethin Jones – and steer others away from fragility, whilst dumping a few stragglers in January.

The same challenges, in other words, that would have faced Pressley. The idea all United’s problems have left town with the 46-year-old is dubious and from the aisle of out-of-work managers (unless they prise one from elsewhere) the Blues somehow need to find the best of all worlds: a fixer who can also retain the focus on youth whilst spinning gold from their budget.

In this age of supposedly sensible living, United are still looking for their third manager of 2019. The various influences at the top are not exactly wallowing in public affection and this needs to be a very good call – followed, ideally, by more deep-rooted change.

Otherwise Steven Pressley, for the flaws that today finally cost him, will go down more as a victim of, and a participant in – rather than the cause of – ongoing hard and uncertain times.