If Carlisle United are expecting any garlands for removing Keith Millen before it’s too late, or for opening the exit door for David Holdsworth a few minutes later, they can forget it.

A club with a handle on its present and future, and in full command of its executive structure, does not burn through two managers in a season and mislay a director of football with 15 games to go in a relegation battle.

The most telling detail in Wednesday morning’s news hurricane is the fact Holdsworth’s position is not being replaced. What, then, about all those cosy comments explaining why his role was so important all this time?

What about the bridge between manager and board? What about the footballing knowledge that apparently made Holdsworth a crucial go-between at Brunton Park?

A cynic would think that was always just a more palatable way of presenting the sudden installation and continued involvement of someone who just happened to be connected to Philip Day, at the time that businessman's Edinburgh Woollen Mill firm were exerting an ever stronger handle on United’s affairs.

News and Star: Holdsworth (centre) joined United in 2018 amid the involvement of Philip Day's (right) Edinburgh Woolen Mill (photo: Stuart Walker)Holdsworth (centre) joined United in 2018 amid the involvement of Philip Day's (right) Edinburgh Woolen Mill (photo: Stuart Walker)

If this Blues regime truly wanted (or had been able to) “direct” their football in a modern and constructive way, they would of course have recruited a DoF proactively. They would have drawn up a job spec and scoured the game, thoughtfully and thoroughly, for the right person.

They would have done so under their own steam, not been taken by the hand and guided by a firm who loaned them a couple of million and pulled their finances into order but never spoke to fans and did not ultimately take the club over.

Holdsworth’s status at United, while it lasted, cleanly exposed the balance of power at Brunton Park. So today’s news does at least offer a sense of dislocation from the EWM-influenced recent past. It says United, on some level, are free to go a different way.

No, it does not shift the £2.4m arrears. It does not overhaul the boardroom and take Carlisle into prosperous and ambitious new hands.

It does say they can regain a little more ownership of their immediate future in a footballing sense. Who calls the shots now, when it comes to the moves that will either rescue or sink them, will be interesting to learn.

News and Star: Millen: Has left after less than four months in charge (photo: Richard Parkes)Millen: Has left after less than four months in charge (photo: Richard Parkes)

Let’s be clear: what has gone on at Brunton Park of late deserves to be described as a shambles. A decision-making process which ushered a manager (Millen) in on October 26 and out on February 23 has plainly had its time.

It did nothing to recommend the credibility of those behind it. It simply fuelled the conviction of the many supporters who were questioning the competence and control of those responsible for winning this dreadful relegation battle and guiding the Blues in general.

The Millen misadventure was the most humiliating and curious managerial failure for a while. He is the fourth boss to pass through since 2018 and leaves the Blues second bottom of the Football League with one of the worst teams in the club’s history.

Proper “fan engagement” – that phrase some at Brunton Park brandish like a badge of honour – would now bring those in charge to the table to explain why this is so.

That won’t now involve Holdsworth. But from those remaining, it would still involve due contrition, transparency and just a little less of the accountability-swerve we’ve seen in some departments lately.

News and Star: United's owners and directors have more big decisions to make (photo: Barbara Abbott)United's owners and directors have more big decisions to make (photo: Barbara Abbott)

It would incorporate a great deal more than one executive (Nigel Clibbens) meeting fan groups at reasonable intervals and producing updates on the club website. It would allow us to truly test the aptitude of more of the big cheeses with questions they seldom face these days.

Considering not a single one of those figures stepped up to face the media when Millen was even appointed, don’t hold your breath – unless what’s happening today has also served to blast the cobwebs from a few eyelids.

Millen’s hiring itself left an information void from day one. Why was he United’s man in the first place? Why did a 55-year-old from Croydon, whose only managerial stints were a long-ago spell at Bristol City, caretaker offerings at Crystal Palace and an obscure stint in Sweden, really rush to the top of the list when it came to the matter of saving Carlisle United?

What convinced those involved that he had the contacts and clout that other, more apparent contenders did not? Many theorised about the fact his former Watford team-mate was director of football. Millen insisted he’d barely spoken to Holdsworth since they were centre-halves at Vicarage Road.

News and Star: Millen, left, has seen the team's form decline dramatically in recent weeks (photo: Richard Parkes)Millen, left, has seen the team's form decline dramatically in recent weeks (photo: Richard Parkes)

From the outset Millen was an affable and largely open man. His coaching credentials were there, players he had worked with spoke warmly of him and he appeared to have the avuncular manner which a fragile squad needed.

Come mid-January it also seemed like he had the necessary touch. Three wins on the spin and an eight-point buffer zone had some (this writer included) rushing to assume Carlisle had acted at the right time and in the right way.

United, upon beating Stevenage, Scunthorpe United and Bradford City, finally looked to have a plan. Not a glamorous or expansive one by any means, but one that might just minimise their myriad weaknesses, save their hides and allow for future revamping to be done from a Football League basis at least.

That revival, though, proved incredibly fragile. A cluster of injuries further exposed a preceding period of abysmal recruitment, while an attempt to incorporate new signings – including some plainly unready from the Under-23 market – cost Millen and the Blues badly.

News and Star: United's 3-0 defeat to Swindon on Saturday pushed them into the drop zone - and spelled the end for Millen (photo: Barbara Abbott)United's 3-0 defeat to Swindon on Saturday pushed them into the drop zone - and spelled the end for Millen (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Recent performances have been both awful and disturbing. The 3-0 defeat to Swindon on Saturday sent all sense of managerial gravitas out of the window.

What are Carlisle now? A makeshift, raw team with frayed edges, a barely-discernible plan, an experience deficit, certain new additions either not fit enough or not good enough (or both), and no sense of the tactical shape that can be relied upon to get the best out of the limited group they have.

Once more: well done everyone. Top job. Some of this can be put on Millen – why hire a manager at all if not? – but removing a manager is only a sense of attacking the symptoms.

Even an unpopular DoF heading for the hills can be put in the same category to an extent. We were told, often from the man himself, that the success or failure of United’s signings were not on him. On this basis, why has he gone?

Why, while we're on the subject, was a person with his job title responsible for liaising with the club’s kit supplier but not - as far as we were informed - for setting the dominant parameters on players, vision and tactical identity? Why was Holdsworth a deal-maker but not, in a more integral sense…directing the football?

News and Star: Holdsworth's remit as DoF attracted plenty of questions and speculation from fans (photo: Richard Parkes)Holdsworth's remit as DoF attracted plenty of questions and speculation from fans (photo: Richard Parkes)

Why was he the man to oversee the contracts, inbound and out, including some transfers that earned the Blues pots of useful money - but not deeper football strategy?

Any chance someone could do some proper explaining?

Here is the truth which we all know deep down: the real medicine at Brunton Park needs to be taken higher up.

It needs to come regarding that old canard “succession”. It needs to elaborate on the post-EWM landscape at Carlisle, it still being not long since that firm said they wanted to see a “flourishing club at the heart of Carlisle”.

(Maybe they meant Harraby Catholic Club, which is always a good night. They might have meant Walkabout, although probably best not to mention that place at the moment.

Carlisle United? Flourishing? The place appears, from the outside, the opposite: uncertainly influenced, held back by debt, hobbled by ageing ownership, lead-weighted by a beloved but crumbling stadium and accompanied by a supporters’ trust of limited heft which - though they’d no doubt contest this – can hardly be said to have held feet to the flames too often.

This wide-ranging debacle is right now pointing this proud old club towards non-league and a long winter of obscurity there. The big picture is ripe for addressing as ever but, in the meantime, the only dice-roll left this season is to appoint a quick-fix “gaffer” and hope he can have the same caffeinated effect John Sheridan is having at Oldham.

That grumpy old devil would probably have been ideal for where Carlisle find themselves. As it is, United, in their state of intense panic, can either turn to someone else from their past (Paul Simpson, Keith Curle, Danny Grainger, Peter Murphy, Michael Bridges) or get a figure like Derek Adams on speed dial if they haven't already.

And then pray.