The good news? There is a plan B. No, not Covid, silly. Carlisle United.

An alternative path should talks with Edinburgh Woollen Mill/Philip Day break down. And, just to be on the safe side, an alternative to the alternative.

We know this because, in June, John Nixon suggested so. On the club website, when replying to supporters’ questions following a forum, the Blues co-owner moved to reassure people of United’s contingency preparations on “succession”.

“As with all plans we have a preferred route, but also plan B and C, which we could pursue if required,” he said, when asked if all United's eggs were in the EWM basket.

Now, Nixon is not a person given to playing fast and loose with the notion of a plan B. When the director does not feel one is necessary, he will state as much.

This was plain when, during a different club interview in October last year on the subject of Project Big Picture, the EFL board member was asked if a plan B was advisable in the event of that scheme failing.

“Do we need a plan B? Well, if you don’t do that we’re going to do that…no, what you have to do is try to get as much as you possibly can that you can all get agreement on so that we can move forward…”

In other words: only say there is a plan B if you need a plan B and there is a plan B. Good.

News and Star: John Nixon (photo: Barbara Abbott)John Nixon (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Now, back to the present. Just over a week ago, it was confirmed by United’s Holdings board, and subsequently supporters’ trust CUOSC, that plan A, after long-standing talks, was finally off the table.

There would be no takeover involving EWM, Day or whatever precise individuals or bodies connected to the above were thinking of driving the Blues forward.

That day, December 10, there were two long statements; since then, a great deal more words have been expended to describe the official state of affairs.

Yet nobody, so far, has mentioned a decisive plan B.

United have floated the idea of pursuing new investment. CUOSC have spoken of "various" interested parties who have been on the scene and may be revisited. Those, though, cannot necessarily be described as plans.

Aims, wishes, ideas, certainly. Aspirations. Possibilities. Options. Avenues. But oven-ready plans?

The Holdings statement on December 10 said this about the demise of what we can presume to have been plan A: “The board sought legal advice and it became clear that the best option for all parties was to seek credible new potential investors with immediate effect, to avoid any further detriment to the club.”

Again – what is set out in that paragraph does not come across as a plan. Indeed, if it turns out that “seeking new potential investors” was plan B all along, one dares to wonder what plan C might look like.

Now, six months is a long time in football. It may be that what Nixon felt was a definitive pair of alternatives in June are no longer there in December.

This remains a strange financial climate. The creeping return of possible Covid restrictions reminds us all that volatility and uncertainty is still clear and present.

Even at the best of times in this sport, a sure thing one day can be nothing of the sort the next. A hoped-for suitor, meanwhile, can remain that. The same sources Nixon was referring to in June might still be in view, only we've not yet been told.

Still: the mention of "plans B and C" suggested things that were defined to some confident degree. It implied a new course, an immediate switch of direction which was available to the Blues.

News and Star: Supporters' trust CUOSC said they formally told United's owners in May that they would not support a revised dealSupporters' trust CUOSC said they formally told United's owners in May that they would not support a revised deal

So what is United’s plan now? It is difficult to tell, given the rather obvious shadow cast by their £2.4m debt to Purepay Retail Limited, which was novated to that company after EWM’s fall into administration.

Nobody is being remotely vague about that issue. Blues chief executive Nigel Clibbens told a supporters’ groups (CUSG) meeting last week that only “preliminary discussions” have so far been held and, despite an “open door” existing to discuss the debt, nothing had yet changed. “It was uncertain if anything would change at all,” the minutes added.

Other dispatches suggest that for any plan B to be enacted, the substantial matter of the debt must first be dealt with.

This, one imagines, was the realistic picture in the summer too; after all, CUOSC, according to their statement, formally informed the club’s owners in May that they would not be supporting a revised takeover deal. Nixon gave his answers to fans in June. This was, perhaps, at a stage it was hoped things could yet be revived in a different shape (another possible spin on "plan B"). But the realistic prospect they could not was presumably apparent.

The opportunity to put all this directly to United’s top table appears remote bearing in mind the owners are not in the habit of responding to the News & Star’s invitations to be interviewed. Perhaps it will crop up in a future CUSG roundtable or CUOSC briefing. Odd that it hasn’t yet.

To sum up the questions: is the plan B of June - the one United could pursue “if required” - still a plan B, now they definitely do require one? If so, has it been triggered? If not, why not? And what of plan C? Or do we now need to run further into the alphabet?