The only way to conclude a surreal few hours at Carlisle United is to ask this: do they have a better chance of survival now than when they woke up this morning?

The answer is surely yes. Whether that word is tiny or large remains to be seen. Paul Simpson is a manager, not Merlin. The journey preceding his appointment has also been one giant misadventure at Brunton Park. We can’t forget that.

But at least, praise be, there is a sense of credibility returning in one major respect after a long holiday away. At least, in United’s dire straits, there is a fraction more hope.

This is the best act of desperation Carlisle could probably have made. The idea, when setting about this season or even getting midway through it was presumably not to make a mercy appeal to the last boss who delivered real success to the club, nearly 16 years ago.

This, though, is where they are: in need of something remarkable, a giant plot twist, a thoroughly galvanising effect in an attempt to avert total disaster. A man people will rally around, believe in, even be inspired by.

News and Star: Paul Simpson, right, pictured today with United chairman Andrew Jenkins (photo: Amy Nixon)Paul Simpson, right, pictured today with United chairman Andrew Jenkins (photo: Amy Nixon)

Enter Simmo. This, be in no doubt, is not just a football decision but one designed to tap into the deep-rooted feelings of United’s fans. It is also made in the fervent hope the next 15 games can be about the cause on the pitch, not the struggles upstairs.

With Simpson at the tiller, that intention has a chance. It would be an insult to assume Carlisle’s supporters will automatically be deflected completely from everything that needs to change in the wider club.

Yet to a degree, there will be a shift in the gaze regardless. The Blues are taking several hundred fans to Leyton Orient on Saturday. The tone of that trip now transforms.

Without Wednesday’s dramatic events, further toxicity about the capabilities of Keith Millen and the presence of David Holdsworth might have hit new heights. Now: a double promotion-winner is back in the dugout, running the show.

The Cumbrian who lifted trophies, signed Michael Bridges, Kevin Gray and the rest, turned around a different sort of shambolic United and returned it to genuinely (albeit fleetingly) great times...

If that doesn’t penetrate to the hearts of the folk boarding buses and trains to east London this weekend, it’s hard to imagine what would.

Reality now. The same side will be on the team coach as before. The same players who’ve stumbled through eight winless games, looking bereft and indeed confused in the act of gathering points to keep this club out of non-league; they’ll still be pulling the blue shirts on.

Simpson, unlike in 2003/4, cannot turf out those who have let the operation down. He cannot tap into his contacts and restock the team with hardened experience right now.

News and Star: Paul Simpson first took charge at United in 2003Paul Simpson first took charge at United in 2003

So, this is a job exclusively for Simpson the coach and the man-manager. Simpson the tactician, Simpson the motivator. The good news is that he is proven when it comes to getting the best out of young players (look no further than 2017’s England Under-20 World Cup win).

The less-known aspect is what he can do with the exact raw materials Millen and Holdsworth have left behind. There is a sense of water having to be turned into wine here, and finishing 22nd, after an almighty scramble, will still absolutely do.

United’s idea, it would seem, is that their new, old boss can have a similar effect John Sheridan is bringing to Oldham in a sixth stint in charge. Considering Simpson hasn’t been a Football League manager since 2011, it is on some level a large leap of faith.

Yet isn't that simply what's needed at times? Carlisle, under their recent regime, have after all tried it differently with their managerial approaches until now. They got short-term benefits from, but were left in the lurch by, the restless journeyman Sheridan. They got high ideas but low delivery from Steven Pressley.

News and Star: Keith Millen, left: the latest in a number of failed appointments (photo: Richard Parkes)Keith Millen, left: the latest in a number of failed appointments (photo: Richard Parkes)

They got a flirtation with success, accompanied by big player sales and then a savage decline, under the less heralded Chris Beech. They got 17 league games from Keith Millen: a curious appointment all told, and now a sad footnote in United’s touchline history.

They tried to play it smart, play it differently, appoint people of unclear credentials who they thought would fit their intentions and/or influences. It hasn’t worked, and it has cost both Millen and director of football Holdsworth their positions.

So: after all that, why not give nostalgia a spin? Why not do what often comes naturally both to Carlisle United and the many of us who follow them, and leap headlong into the past?

Why not tether this to the absolute and undeniable footballing gravitas 55-year-old Simpson brings, and see if it does the trick at such a perilous moment?

News and Star: Simpson greets fans after winning the League Two title in 2006Simpson greets fans after winning the League Two title in 2006

At a club and fanbase that needs a mood lift, the hugely positive reaction seen in the last few hours has to count for something. It has to help, too, that some major figures from United’s past, ranging from Bridges to Matt Jansen and far beyond, look at the Blues now and think: yeah. That could work.

What else we get with Simpson, we largely know. A meticulous organiser (“not quite OCD,” he told me in December) and a man of standards. A popular person with players and a man smart enough to understand club politics.

A manager who has busily tried to further his expertise when out of the game, and who has a few harsh experiences in his knowledge bank too. An individual who still knows many of Carlisle’s quirks and curiosities, and who certainly appreciates its community.

Someone who, in the recent past, has also taken on the vastly more serious matter of cancer with all the dignity and clear-mindedness he could muster, and happily, touch wood, come out the other side.

News and Star: Simpson led England's Under-20s to the 2017 World Cup (photo: PA)Simpson led England's Under-20s to the 2017 World Cup (photo: PA)

After that, it’s perhaps easier to imagine why he would shelve any reservations, get in his car and head up from Derbyshire to try and save Carlisle United once again.

The honeymoon will be necessarily short. A man who never fills his diary more than six weeks ahead, and whose putative autobiography was/is due to be titled ‘Each Game As It Comes’ will know that better than anyone.

Any quick sign at all of a Simmo uplift, though, will be seized upon by a fanbase yearning for something. That in itself could create a ripple of momentum.

Ultimately, we have to recognise this wouldn’t be happening without all United’s earlier calamities and weaknesses. Yet nor would it occur without an inviting sense of romance on all sides. All that matters now is that the happy ending follows.