If you were challenged to describe Carlisle United’s outlook in this intriguing summer of 2022, you would probably settle on something like: vaguely optimistic.

The vagueness comes from the fact nobody is daring to predict immediate success. Nobody is that silly, after such a long drag of failure. Even those at the heart of the club, who must feel a lead weight has been lifted by Paul Simpson, are qualifying their excitement, just a little.

As such, chief executive Nigel Clibbens has more than once declared that this is United’s best opportunity for a while to “do something”. No danger there of a bar being dislodged. #announcesomething won’t get much traction on Twitter.

All the same. We still know what he means. Indeed, most of us share in the idea. Carlisle are, thanks to that man in the dugout, at last looking upwards, at last risking a furtive glance at a place where “something” might be…something decent. Something okay.

This is where the optimism comes from. It is the way Simpson, with his aura and his focus, makes you feel. What we have here, quite blatantly, is a sense of true direction at long last, applied by an absolute gift of a manager. The Blues’ Mr Right and Mr Right Now, all in one familiar and by now well-travelled and experienced package.

At this early stage, United’s vision of improvement is unavoidably fragile. If you took the 56-year-old out of the operation now, the foundations are not yet strong enough to assume everything would still be ok.

These, however, are the early days of a long game. Piece by piece, change by change, “structure” (a favoured Simpson word) by structure, you can see the job unfolding. You can see Simmo gradually making Carlisle United more competent, more secure, less flirtatious with the dreadful possibilities that presented themselves last season. By the end of Simpson’s contract, in 2025, the Blues in a footballing sense ought to have much higher levels of credibility again.

News and Star: United directors: made the right call on Simpson, but debt questions remainUnited directors: made the right call on Simpson, but debt questions remain

As they approach a new season, it is right to pause and give thanks one last time that Carlisle are not doing so as a non-league club. Now, after pulling them back from the brink, it is a case of how far Simpson can take them – and how much fuel the wider club can give him.

These questions won’t be answered on Saturday, or perhaps even this campaign. Simpson, above all a measured man, has been keen to spell out that several transfer windows are needed to get this team into truly successful order.

And yet. Simpson is canny enough to know how powerful certain things can still be in the short term. It is a long time since Carlisle had at the helm someone with his popularity, status and community-wide reach, not to mention the gravitas that comes with his coaching CV and reams of contacts.

Is it too much to imagine that such things, in a notoriously unpredictable level like League Two, could offer immediate rewards in 2022/23 for a club, a team, with such a strong tailwind all of a sudden?

Sometimes glory can catch you unawares. When Carlisle rebounded to the Football League in 2005 after a depressing relegation, did they imagine storming League Two the following season?

Unlikely. And who was the manager then?

Okay, a march straight to the summit is probably fanciful this time. United should be better, but will not instantly shake off all the drawbacks that made them fodder for much of last term. When Simpson talks of patience and a big picture, he is not an anxious manager trying to buy time.

He is talking with realism and good sense. In which case, provided there is evidence of improvement, all of us observing events at Brunton Park from now until next May should give him the same dues, even if that improvement is incremental rather than dramatic.

News and Star: Greg Abbott's return as head of recruitment has filled an obvious voidGreg Abbott's return as head of recruitment has filled an obvious void

The Blues are not, it hardly needs repeating, wallowing in prosperous times. They are still not free from the burden of debt to Purepay Retail Limited. They are not on top of the considerable matter of an ageing Brunton Park, and what happens with that for the long run.

They are, though, at least, wearing a sunnier face. Certain sponsors – notably Story Homes, the hugely successful building firm of former owner Fred Story – are back on board. There are new people driving commercial and retail operations.

These are genuinely bright and welcome steps. There is also, in the football department, a head of recruitment who seems instinctively suited to the role. Greg Abbott’s passion for Carlisle, in an organised and sharpened talent-spotting system overseen by Simpson, helps fill a void that was strangely there in recent past times, details of which we need not go back and pick over.

Again – certain things don’t happen overnight, and right now Carlisle must bank on some initial work in the market lifting their game. Ryan Edmondson looks like an emerging number nine worth the faith, Ben Barclay a solid loan arrival to plug a defensive hole. There is stature in Tomas Holy, a spiky potential in Fin Back, creative possibilities in Sonny Hilton. The greatest fascination, meanwhile, lies in Owen Moxon: a lad from Denton Holme who started at Carlisle, went away, glittered for Annan Athletic and was nudged back in United’s direction by Peter Murphy.

If Moxon steps into regular League Two football well, imposes his evident qualities and works away at a few rough edges under Simpson’s keen eye, the midfielder could be the story of United’s season. The city will have his back as he strives in this direction.

The rest of the squad has a certain familiarity, with nuggets of hope and potential. Morgan Feeney may be the next player United have to fight to keep, if his strong defensive leadership continues to flourish. Instinct says to enjoy this battling, somewhat old-school centre-half while we can.

News and Star: Morgan Feeney is likely to grow in value this seasonMorgan Feeney is likely to grow in value this season

Also at the back, Jon Mellish may grow in value again now his wanderings across different positions are, for the moment, over. Mellish, signed as a centre-half, was close to being released after his first season in Cumbria. After a glut of midfield goals, and further efforts in the centre and the attack, it is striking that Simpson sent him back into the rearguard straight away.

The squad’s longest-serving player looks at home there. Mellish is a committed, fit, still raw but thoroughly relentless player, more valuable to this squad than is sometimes accepted. Simpson’s back three, in an aggressive system, looks ideal for him.

In midfield, Callum Guy is back to fitness and, more than likely, with the job of doing the less glamorous chores whilst the likes of Moxon and Jordan Gibson get on with the creating. This ought to be a campaign when Guy’s mounting experience, albeit still at 25, should tell. Simpson’s seemingly fluid attacking midfield and forward system is going to need a touchstone in front of the defence.

In Simmo 1.0, characters like Chris Billy served that crucial purpose. Filling gaps, stepping in, supplying the graft, lubricating the play: there should be no-one better than Guy at ticking these boxes.

A campaign of hard work lies ahead for the wing-backs. Jack Armer and Brennan Dickenson will contest the left side, and Fin Back will start in front of Jack Ellis on the right. All concerned will need to show they can marry attacking polish with defensive bite plus a well-oiled engine. Carlisle’s strategy won’t succeed without it.

News and Star: Owen Moxon's first-team progress will be fascinating in 2022/23Owen Moxon's first-team progress will be fascinating in 2022/23

Up front, Edmondson’s ability to step up as a young leader of the attack will have a big say in United’s potential. Kristian Dennis has the nous to work tight situations and open taut games. Tobi Sho-Silva, at the very least, is capable of some rampaging substitute contributions. Omari Patrick, after last season’s dynamic return, should be eyes-wide-open at the possibilities if he hits his straps in 2022/23.

Patrick is a good example of a player finding his place, his club. He is liked, even loved, by plenty of Carlisle’s fanbase. After he performed so brightly to help Simmo keep United up, his pace and skill must now propel him, and them, further. At 26, this ought to be prime time for Patrick.

Mention of a young player like Ellis is also significant. The defender from Staveley ended last season with a welcome first-team breakthrough. All at United speak highly of his professionalism, dedication and focus.

Those qualities will continue to push him forward. Also from the teenage ranks, 17-year-old Nic Bollado has caught the manager’s eye with his strength and finishing. Expect him to be on the fringe of things a little sooner than expected.

In goal, the promising Gabe Breeze edges ever closer to some sort of first-team opportunity (as, hopefully, will Scott Simons after injury – either that or a loan). The youth team was also represented well in pre-season by Ryan Carr and Kai Nugent, who give Under-18s boss Mark Birch plenty to work with.

Sam Fishburn, meanwhile, will hopefully reinforce his potential at Blyth Spartans after an interrupted pre-season. Max Kilsby could wish for no better loan mentor than Murphy at Annan. And Lewis Bell will also need a stage, somewhere and somehow, to remind us why his skills have long been backed at Brunton Park.

The start of the season comes too soon for the injured troops. Taylor Charters ought not to be long back, while for Josh Dixon and Joel Senior there is a longer road still to take. Given the way the manager wants to evolve the squad, one hopes these bright young players can return as swiftly and safely as possible.

News and Star: Ryan Edmondson will shoulder line-leading responsibilitiesRyan Edmondson will shoulder line-leading responsibilities

A cup run of some description would be welcome in 2022/23, both for the coffers and the idea of vitality around Simpson’s United.

In the real cups, that is. In the Papa John’s Trophy this season we have the ghastly prospect of Carlisle providing match practice for the under-21s from former European Super League aspirants Manchester United.

The evangelists for that sort of fixture used to insist that people would flock to watch such football; more than for grubby lower-league fayre. Let’s see how many are battering down Brunton Park’s doors for the dubious pleasure next month.

As for League Two: who else is your money on? Stockport County, back in the EFL, are a renewed force of footballing and financial nature and may be difficult to stop if they build more momentum.

At Bradford City, Mark Hughes has signed players with the prolific keenness of a man building an army to fight Gavin Skelton. The Bantams should soar – but with so much squad upheaval, maybe not immediately.

Northampton Town, Mansfield Town and Tranmere Rovers have the feel of reliable contenders. At least one of the relegated League One quartet will sit strongly in the pack (Doncaster Rovers, maybe). Otherwise, questions abound: have Salford City changed managers just to go sideways again? Will Crawley Town make the waves their crypto-bro owners feel is possible?

Will Steve Evans make Stevenage both competitive and utterly charming? Can Sutton United regroup after a fine first effort in the EFL? Is Offrande Zanzala really the striker to end Newport County's years of waiting? Can their old boss, Michael Flynn, make a promotion out of Walsall?

News and Star: Bradford, who have recruited heavily, should be among the contenders under Mark Hughes (photo: Richard Parkes)Bradford, who have recruited heavily, should be among the contenders under Mark Hughes (photo: Richard Parkes)

At the other end of the bookies’ predictions, can Pete Wild build the spirit to keep Barrow’s necks above water? Is this the season Colchester United drift sadly down?

Whatever the answers, following it all is worth sticking with, particularly in the winter when a World Cup mired in corruption, the plight of migrant workers and who knows what else will tug at our attention.

The English game is far from squeaky clean. But, with Qatar 2022’s intrusion in mind, there is a certain extra purity in looking forward to another season at United’s level, ticking off new grounds (AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane), revisiting some old ones (Stockport’s Edgeley Park, Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, Gillingham’s Priestfield) and sharing in the atmosphere that Carlisle’s travelling fans, buoyed by Simmo-faith, will create in all of them.

That, right there, is the best reason to jump into 2022/23: the renewed connection, the lack of toxicity all of a sudden. Yes, Carlisle’s ownership situation is far from resolved. Yes, their debt repayments are still unclear. Fault lines, too, are going to be further exposed at supporters’ trust level once - as looks inevitable this weekend - members of the new Unita Fortior are elected to CUOSC’s board.

And yet, even as these frictions remain, we have at the top of it all Paul Simpson: a proven magnet for good things, good belief. When he invites us to hop on board, it’s impossible not to do so with something of a spring.