Google the term “nicest man in football” and a range of contenders steps forward. Son Heung-Min comes first, Sadio Mane next, followed by Jack Grealish, Ange Postecoglou and Roy Hodgson.

The latter may be a mild surprise to the reporter Hodgson assailed with what the Daily Express called “an F-word RANT” (their capitals) back in 2011. But each to their own.

Sooner or later – or if you simply read the News & Star – you’ll find the odd reference in this respect to Paul Simpson. The latest was made last weekend, by Sean Maguire. “People I spoke to said he’s the nicest man in football, and I can see why he gets that reputation,” the Carlisle United forward said.

In many ways, Maguire was right. Simpson is a grown-up in an industry of children, the adult in the room, the kind of man you’d entrust with your personal issues (as Maguire has) and who you know will approach you, and also lead, with decency.

If you want things doing right, with sensitivity and judgement, then Simpson is your man. This is a manager who doesn’t need to be asked twice to make a community appearance, to write a letter to schoolkids, to comment on this or sort out that.

United, we’ve long known, are lucky to have him. Yet niceness in general should not be confused with niceness on the main event. As some at Brunton Park may be about to discover.

Carlisle, after 13 games, are 20th in League One, having played two games more than the three teams below them. They go to the leaders today and the reality of life after promotion has been tough.

Recruitment, the manager has acknowledged more than once, was a beast of a challenge in the close-season. United struggled to be front foot in a division of bigger spenders and with a shorter timeframe, post play-offs.

They have offered flashes of potential since then, most richly in that victory at Bolton Wanderers, but this is not a squad we can yet depend on – and Simpson is not the kind of man to sit wondering and waiting.

News and Star: Sean Maguire referred to Simpson as the nicest man in football, but the manager's kind nature shouldn't be confused with a forgiving one if things aren't rightSean Maguire referred to Simpson as the nicest man in football, but the manager's kind nature shouldn't be confused with a forgiving one if things aren't right (Image: Barbara Abbott)

United’s boss laid out his rage at certain second-string performances recently. His warning, after the EFL Trophy flop against Nottingham Forest’s Under-21s, was clear about the potential impact on careers.

The alternative, he went on to say, was that his own standing would suffer. And no manager wants to bring that risk on, not even someone as trusted as Simpson is at Carlisle.

History confirms that if he decides you are no longer right for the ride, few favours can be expected. It does not matter, for instance, if you have made the dynamic run from right-back that brings your team back into a play-off final (Joel Senior).

It does not matter if you are a fitness coach who has risen up the ranks (Greg Short). It does not matter if you are a wise and trusted assistant manager who helped you win promotions (Dennis Booth).

Should circumstances make the case for change, change will be made. Simpson’s proactivity on his backroom staff was also hinted at when the manager said it was he who instigated conversations with Colin Nixon, the long-serving kitman, over his future.

In playing terms, the fact Simpson signed you in the summer cannot be viewed as security. United’s needs for this higher level have reduced margins for error and Carlisle’s boss is hardly going to pass up opportunities to remedy certain situations in January, should they materialise.

One of the many secrets of management is, after all, how to cover and make obscure your bad calls, your bad signings. Everyone, from Sir Alex Ferguson down, has made them.

In Simpson’s first spell there were a handful. One of United’s main recruits upon returning to the Football League in 2005 was Raphael Nade. Along that season, they picked up Mark Rivers. Both flopped, while the summer’s experienced goalkeeping signing Anthony Williams did not provide the hoped-for security in the long run.

Nade ended the season on loan at Weymouth and soon toddled off completely. The Rivers experiment was soon waved into the past. Williams’ first-team career at United lasted from August to October before he was replaced by Keiren Westwood.

There was never, in those calls, a whiff of a manager clinging onto his pride. Once judgement was reached, lockers were effectively cleared, and the bigger picture was improved – as 2005/06’s title-winning outcome spectacularly showed.

News and Star: United's second string, heavily criticised by Simpson recently, produced a better performance against Blackpool on TuesdayUnited's second string, heavily criticised by Simpson recently, produced a better performance against Blackpool on Tuesday (Image: Barbara Abbott)

This season we have seen the dropping of United’s main goalkeeper and his later reinstatement. We have witnessed the dropping of their captain, prior to injury. A player signed on a three-year deal is back in the National League less than halfway through that spell.

Those lambasted last Tuesday who turned in a better performance for the reserves seven days later can enjoy that feeling, as Gavin Skelton said, but also accept it’s only one of many steps back to a place where patience, in the manager’s office, can be prolonged.

Simpson has more power than any United manager you care to think of. His body of work, and his record of digging club, regime and team out of the most awkward hole, makes his status as close to unconditional as the lower leagues can provide.

He will use that power acutely and firmly, rather than complacently, to push for things he thinks United need, to put his shoulder into doors that others consider jammed, to examine the picture constantly, and certainly not to protect something that’s wrong just because it was deemed right a while ago.

The notion of a “step change” budget from the Piataks, come January, will also be firmly in his mind, however much he keeps the idea at arm's length in public. While it’s wrong to imagine all the solutions can be found in one month’s shopping, some can (observe how Gillingham, under new American owners, kicked out of trouble in League Two last season).

So – nice man, yes, friendly figure, yes, and someone who makes you feel better about football, yes. But if you’re at Carlisle and coming up short, not your mate. Not even close.