So, let’s take a look at Carlisle United in the January transfer window. Or perhaps it would be safer drawing the blinds.

2016/7. The sale of Charlie Wyke, after a release clause was triggered, followed by additions and other circumstances which took a team from the automatic promotion places to a seven-game goalless run.

The side that scrambled into the play-offs at the very last had lost its swagger. United exited the first month of the year fatally weaker than they’d entered it.

There’s little chance of flogging a prolific scorer this time. But more recent history is still going to have to be defied if United are to save their season and, let’s be honest, their standing on many other levels when 2022 comes around.

Consider 2017/18. United sold the emerging Sam Cosgrove and made Cole Stockton their big January recruit. We know how that worked out, while Kris Twardek and Jamal Campbell-Ryce proved little more than token additions.

Carlisle actually improved slightly over the back nine that campaign, but not particularly as a result of their mid-season deals. Then there was 2018/19, and a classic case of a fragile club falling off the tightrope it had built for itself.

News and Star: Cole Stockton, now starring for Morecambe, was an underwhelming January 2018 addition (photo: Barbara Abbott)Cole Stockton, now starring for Morecambe, was an underwhelming January 2018 addition (photo: Barbara Abbott)

The dynamic loanees, Ashley Nadesan, Jerry Yates and Jack Sowerby: all gone, along with manager John Sheridan. Cue a glut of new faces, plus a fresh boss (Steven Pressley), but the irretrievable breaking of the spell. United duly fell from the automatics to mid-table.

The only time recently that they’ve got it remotely right - that they’ve managed to retune a bad side halfway through - was in 2019/20. Pressley’s squad was bereft (though not as impotent as this one) and successor Chris Beech, after the sales of Jarrad Branthwaite and Hallam Hope, was backed to strengthen it with the likes of Nick Anderton, Joshua Kayode, Lewis Alessandra and Omari Patrick.

The worst outcome was duly averted before Covid intervened. Last season, meanwhile, can be pinned on different factors but attempting to argue the Blues were better in the second half than the first would be so ridiculous I’m not even going to bother finishing this se

Getting worse, not improving, has been the irritating United habit. This time, only one outcome can salvage things. They have to play January well if they are not to run the perilous risk of waking up in May a non-league club.

Just now it feels like undue pressure is being loaded onto a notoriously difficult time of trading. Yet it’s all United have got, and the approaching month must surely have been at the forefront of any managerial negotiations when it became clear Beech’s flush was busted.

News and Star: Lewis Alessandra and Omari Patrick boosted Chris Beech's team after joining in January 2020 (photo: Barbara Abbott)Lewis Alessandra and Omari Patrick boosted Chris Beech's team after joining in January 2020 (photo: Barbara Abbott)

This was not primarily a job for coaching – results have hardly spiked, no matter how much work Keith Millen is attempting – but for recruitment. Last summer, supposedly with 20 per cent greater resources (a fascinating revelation by chief executive Nigel Clibbens last week) has turned out to be calamitous in terms of United’s shopping.

Whoever wishes to accept or offload blame for that, the fact Carlisle did not add the serious attacking players every supporter could see were needed must go down as one of the great market failures the club has seen for yonks.

That period can and must be critically analysed, but it can’t be reversed, and so the heat of scrutiny falls upon this approaching period now. Unless United know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re turning come January 1, then even the recent past will be written up as a big part of the reason Brunton Park’s era as a Football League ground may not be long for this world.

It has been interesting and, given United’s predicament, ever so slightly perturbing to listen to the Barrow manager, Mark Cooper, talking openly about the challenges of January trading. He accepts that young loan players may have to be the order of the day, given the difficulty in finding those who are ready, hungry and in good order to make a difference to a struggling team with 20-odd games of a campaign having already passed.

Millen, too, this week cast a degree of doubt on whether United would be able to move as soon as the window latch is lifted. The risk of more weeks with the current limitations, of more meagre results, makes the salvage job even harder. It piles enormous significance on the months of February, March and April for a restocked team to set things right.

Yet this, quite frankly, has to be a major reason why Millen was appointed. If the director of football does not choose the signings (another topic entirely) and it’s all on the boss, Carlisle simply have to have appointed a man with the necessary contacts, resources, wherewithal; a plan.

News and Star: Keith Millen: Can he source the players to save United's season? (photo: Richard Parkes)Keith Millen: Can he source the players to save United's season? (photo: Richard Parkes)

They have to have nailed this. There must be an absolute minimum of hard-luck stories from here. If United have the funds to strengthen, as Millen has assured supporters and as Holdings directors insisted in yesterday's jolly succession-demise statement, they have to be applied dynamically, with evidence of long-range planning that kicked in the moment Beech’s tenure appeared beyond saving.

The Blues, with all the decisions leading to this point, have created the enormous burden that now comes down on them. Make a hash of it, and it will join the pile of dysfunctional evidence sifted through by fans at the end of 2021/22's misadventure. 

Defy broad history and do the work that inspires recovery, and they’ll pull themselves, and perhaps one or two reputations, out of the flames. No pressure, then.