IF there was a Mount Rushmore of Carlisle United managers, who would be in it?

Or, put another way – where, in light of both current and past events, does Paul Simpson rank in the history of those who’ve sat in the Brunton Park dugout?

Simmo, after all, had already carved out his place in United’s heritage with those back-to-back promotions in 2005 and 2006.

Now he is in the process of adding another impressive feat to that record, with Carlisle within sight of a League Two survival that was looking very precarious indeed only a month ago.

The 55-year-old has, to date, made remarkably short work of the task, turning around United’s form from one point in six games to five wins from the next half-dozen.

It is, when you factor in Simpson’s Carlisle connections, the 16-year hiatus and the fact he only recently recovered from cancer before taking this job a second time, surely one of the best managerial stories in the club’s long history.

News and Star: Paul Simpson has inspired a dramatic turnaround since returning for a second spell in charge (photo: Richard Parkes)Paul Simpson has inspired a dramatic turnaround since returning for a second spell in charge (photo: Richard Parkes)

He is unlikely to consider this debate or these accolades himself, midway through the current challenge, but the rest of us can at least start having the discussion.

And by any reasonable measure, he has to be considered close to the front of the grid – a proud conclusion for a Cumbrian who has performed different but equally important and noteworthy feats in the Brunton Park hotseat.

It will perhaps forever be impossible for any United manager to be considered top of the tree bearing in mind the standard-bearer in Carlisle’s history has to be the great Alan Ashman.

Not only did he deliver consecutive promotions from fourth tier to second in the 1960s, he then returned to guide the Blues to its greatest glory: promotion to the First Division in 1974.

News and Star: Alan Ashman, pictured with Les O'Neill and John Gorman, delivered United's greatest glory: top-flight football in 1974Alan Ashman, pictured with Les O'Neill and John Gorman, delivered United's greatest glory: top-flight football in 1974

In terms of judging Carlisle’s leading managers, it is a case of Ashman and then the rest, and maybe always will be.

Simpson is the only other man ever to have won two promotions with the Blues, and the team he rebuilt from a desolate position in 2003 will never be forgotten.

It was an act of managerial alchemy to turn that struggling set into a winning machine, with some inspirational signings along the way. Simmo could not prevent relegation to the Conference, but two seasons later had United in League One.

Other promotion-winners certainly deserve their place in the discussion. Bob Stokoe, in 1968, saved Carlisle from relegation and made them competitive in a tough Second Division – and then, like Simpson, returned more than a decade later for a second go at the controls.

News and Star: Bob Stokoe, front centre, managed United three timesBob Stokoe, front centre, managed United three times

And he did so impressively, taking a tightly-knit United back up from Division Three in 1982 and, two years later, close to an unlikely return to the top flight on resources dwarfed by many rivals.

There is no doubting Stokoe’s imprint on Carlisle’s managerial story – likewise their other promotion-winners.

Ivor Powell, the idiosyncratic Welshman, was after all the first to take United up, from the Fourth Division in 1962.

Then, after Ashman’s promotion trio and Stokoe’s success, Mick Wadsworth led another iconic side up a division.

News and Star: Mick Wadsworth led an iconic United side to success in 1994/5Mick Wadsworth led an iconic United side to success in 1994/5

Wadsworth can always walk tall in Carlisle for the colourful glory of 1994/5, which also saw his “deckchair army” represent the club at Wembley for the first time in the Auto-Windscreens Shield.

Mervyn Day, his successor, also oversaw double success in 1997: a first Wembley win, accompanied by another excellent fourth-tier promotion.

Others who did not deliver league glory still made their significant mark. Ivor Broadis, at 23, remains the youngest manager in Football League history and his superb footballing qualities were behind the initial post-war Blues.

Bill Shankly brought vibrancy to Brunton Park, an iconic FA Cup sojourn to Arsenal, a positive team and an outspoken eloquence that the football nation would eventually come to know.

News and Star: Bill Shankly: Inspirational figureBill Shankly: Inspirational figure

Fred Emery’s seven years saw some strong teams and highlights such as the Alf Ackerman-inspired FA Cup draw with Birmingham City in 1957 as the Cumbrians evolved.

Tim Ward’s team toppled Newcastle in the FA Cup in 1968. Ian MacFarlane’s entertaining Division Two side got the mercurial best out of a certain Stan Bowles.

At the other end of things, Ian Atkins did remarkable work to keep the team’s necks above the bottom-tier waterline in a time of deep club crisis in 2001. John Ward, in 2008, took Carlisle as close to the Championship as they’ve been since the mid-80s.

Greg Abbott delivered a sustained run in League One, two Wembley trips and, to date, United’s most recent silverware. Keith Curle’s eventful League Two tenure included survival, that bold and memorable night at Anfield and the best tilt at promotion since 2006.

News and Star: The League Two title under Paul Simpson and owner Fred Story, right, remains Carlisle United's last promotionThe League Two title under Paul Simpson and owner Fred Story, right, remains Carlisle United's last promotion

Since then it’s been either a case of the candle not burning long enough, or things descending into real difficulty.

And now Simmo’s back at the wheel, doing good things. Where exactly the man sits in United’s all-time judgement will always be a matter of individual opinion.

You don’t get far, though, in considering all those names, years and achievements before concluding that – yes, he’s up there with the very best.

READ MORE: How comeback king Paul Simpson has already made Carlisle United history