“The most important part of management,” said Joe Royle, in Simon Hughes’ excellent book about northern football clubs, On The Brink, “is recruitment. Second is man-management. Third is coaching.”

In that order, the great Royle stressed. “It’s actually recruitment and basic talent that’s most important.” He was reflecting on the time he led Oldham Athletic to improbable heights in the 1990s but it felt like an old truth ready for carving into tablet and passing on again.

It’s an essential piece of wisdom which is always neglected at a club’s peril. If Keith Millen, the new Carlisle United manager, does not want one r-word (relegation) about the place, another noun beginning with that letter has to remain front and centre of how he and the Blues get out of their current pickle.

It is, let us be honest, the reason they are in it; the reason why it would be foolish to expect the experienced, measured Millen to turn a side with two wins and 11 goals in 14 games into a winning juggernaut any time soon.

The 55-year-old will hopefully make incremental improvements, starting today. It is entirely the remit of a manager to make a side better than the sum of its parts, to hide deficiencies and relocate strengths. These are the first days of his reign, but at least some evidence of new thinking can still present itself from the beginning.

United, more than likely, will run out at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium this afternoon with new instruction pertaining to organisation and structure: the first things most new bosses like to address.

It will, though, be the same group of players who have taken Carlisle to the depths of third bottom in the EFL. As much as Chris Beech could not find a fresh tactical solution this season (and since January, in all truth), this has not primarily been a strategic fall.

It is that United have simply been short of the right players in the right departments. They are, top of the list, chronically short of reliability and goalscoring presence up front; something Millen has observed from afar, noting as he did this week their good statistics for attacking opposition territory with the accompanying paltry returns.

Certain defensive deficiencies have shown up too, and while the new boss did not wish to dwell on the subject of signing new players out of “respect” to those he has inherited, he did not attempt to avoid the core reality. “Recruitment is key,” he said. United, we have to hope, have recruited Millen himself with his contacts in mind for this critical area.

This, be in no doubt, is an immediate rebuilding job at Brunton Park after what must go down as a flawed summer. Millen was sceptical about the instant value of the free agent market, and understandably hopes Carlisle are in a better place when they come to consider January.

Either way – it is something they simply have to nail, for whatever other ideas, mannerisms and plans Millen has brought with him to Cumbria, they won’t succeed unless he also has the players.

It’s a simple point, but a coldly clear one. Last week we heard Keith Curle on BBC Cumbria defending the much-debated bonus system that marked his United reign. The man who led Carlisle from 2014-18 was perfectly entitled to point out it had been a collective initiative, struck in conjunction with the hierarchy, not simply the preserve of one man who could be conveniently blamed after the event.

Yet the contrast in recruitment even during a single season undoubtedly cost United the promotion they should, given their outlay, have delivered. In the summer of 2016, Curle managed to tempt such as Nicky Adams and Mike Jones to Brunton Park. Post-Christmas, after the sale of Charlie Wyke, Carlisle’s promotion-chasing squad was bolstered with men like James Hooper, Joe Ward, Ben Tomlinson and Junior Joachim.

There was no way on this blessed earth that such players were going to enhance or even prop up a side that needed fresh momentum. Curle had not changed, but the overall quality of his ranks diminished.

At the 1994/5 reunion three weeks ago, Darren Edmondson told an amusing story about Mick Wadsworth’s first day in charge. Defender Dean Walling, chatting to his team-mate, was heard to say that, given Wadsworth’s Football Association background, there would now be effing cones everywhere. Deano didn’t realise Wadsworth was walking a couple of paces behind him. Cringe.

Wadsworth, of course, was far more than a cones man. He went on to become one of United’s most successful bosses; a bright thinker and canny motivator.

He also, though, had players: some already there, some he recruited, such as David Reeves, Rod Thomas, David Currie and Derek Mountfield. United could not have delivered that era’s successes without such positive dealmaking.

Likewise Paul Simpson, whose deploying of contacts and hunches led to an inspired transformation of a poor squad in the noughties. Simpson was the meticulous, professional manager Carlisle needed. Nothing turned the Blues, though, like his knack in the market.

Millen’s own eye needs to be laser-accurate in this regard, financial constraints notwithstanding, given what we’ve seen so far. Today won’t be the day we know, but what Joe Royle said still lands with profound force: “It doesn’t matter how good the coaching is if the raw product isn’t there.”