“The future of Carlisle United is in the hands of the community. We can only give it our best shot and give it our expertise.”

And who, in their right minds, could disagree with that? Who wouldn’t embrace those gentle words as a broad mission statement from a new owner?

Anyway, that was Michael Knighton, whose best shot and expertise combined to create...well, all sorts at Brunton Park over the following decade. A reminder, then: don’t pin everything on what’s said at the outset.

Keep the whole thing under scrutiny, at the start, in the middle and beyond. Just because the Piataks appear, at first and second glance, the kind of owners United need, don’t give anyone a free pass. Agreed? Good.

All the same (and there’s always an all the same) – let’s be clear here. This does, in November 2023, feel like the turning point we have all been waiting for, that elusive moment when finance and vision combine to take Carlisle into the future.

There are many unknowns about what happens now and next, but it is impossible not to be enthralled by the idea of the Blues shedding their old skin and becoming more modern, more driven.

Nobody need apologise for feeling thoroughly excited about that idea, to the point where stars and stripes are now as common on United matchdays as blue and white. If the Piataks’ credentials check out – and so far they do – let us dream a few dreams, and not waste too much time being wistful about the past.

The supporters’ trust, CUOSC, this week set a respectful tone regarding Carlisle’s current owners as their 15-and-a-bit year reign eases down. “They have come in for some criticism from fans during their tenure but there is no doubt they are Blues fans at heart and have always acted in what they believed was the best interests of the club,” wrote the trust.

News and Star: United's current owners John Nixon (first left), Steven Pattison (second left) and Andrew Jenkins (far right) - pictured with David Allen, who quit in 2009 - have been steadfast, but United have lacked true vision and the club's limitations have been clearUnited's current owners John Nixon (first left), Steven Pattison (second left) and Andrew Jenkins (far right) - pictured with David Allen, who quit in 2009 - have been steadfast, but United have lacked true vision and the club's limitations have been clear (Image: Stuart Walker)

Longevity, steadfastness…these things do deserve respect. Football has known enough remote, fly-by-night owners to know that Carlisle haven’t been run by chancers who walk away from hard times. Andrew Jenkins is the opposite of that description.

There is always something important and indeed admirable in that. Yet 15 years is also a long time to stand still, and too often this has been a tenure buffeted by events, rather than one able to determine the future itself.

It has been “custodianship”, that word used in 2008, but that principle proved troubled in itself given the takeover debacles to this point, the hopeful but failed attempts over a new stadium, the general financial hurdles and the latter-day debt wrangle which has taken some serious heave-ho to sort out.

This was not, for a long time, a regime in total charge bearing in mind how it veered, latterly, from the heavy spending Curle-era bonus years to the EWM-driven prudence, and then borrowings from the latter group paired with influences from its world.

It all nearly took Carlisle out of the Football League, a dwindling operation without firm identity, still with no strides made on the stadium or training facilities, if not meeting the dreadful fate of several other clubs then continuing to lack the kind of vision you can sell to people in the confidence they’ll buy.

And no doubt this path pained those at the top too. And on the basis it’s not how you travel but how you arrive, it’s undeniable they look to be finishing on a flourish: with the timely and, in some respects, brave wresting back of control that led to the inspired appointment of Paul Simpson, and now the sourcing, it seems, of people with the clout to take United forward: something they always said they wanted.

Yet a brighter, more calculated ownership would have more on its record than one relegation, one promotion, three Wembley appearances, lots of nearly or nondescript years, stasis in terms of infrastructure and now, thankfully, what seems to be a good finale and handover.

News and Star: Paul Simpson often talks about United having stood still in the recent past - and the need to raise their horizonsPaul Simpson often talks about United having stood still in the recent past - and the need to raise their horizons (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Managers have been backed, and in the main retained longer than other clubs might have chosen to, but Carlisle’s ceiling shows even today. If United getting promoted from the fourth tier has to be seen as a pleasant sort of surprise, and if recruiting and staying at this higher level is so damned difficult, then no wonder Simpson talks so often about the need to go further and higher, to expand the club’s horizons, to tap into that long-lost potential and drink from it.

He is speaking for us all, considering that for many generations now United’s successes have been fleeting, not firm enough in their foundations, certainly not consolidated and grown. The fear of this one going the same way as others was voiced by Simpson after last weekend’s FA Cup defeat at Leyton Orient.

As ever, you trust the manager himself to find a way. This is nothing like the kind of lost cause he’s saved in the past. Limit the negative trajectory of this season, and Carlisle could have one heck of a platform for 2024. Going down wouldn’t need to kill any dreams but it would set the future back in a certain way.

With the Piataks’ motivation, at least we can think of that future still materialising. We can entertain the idea of Carlisle United, in due course, becoming what we want it to be, rather than what we’re forced to accept it as being.

Back to 1992. “I am delighted but also a bit concerned that the club is going out of local control,” said MP Eric Martlew after the Knighton deal. “Professional football is assured in Cumbria but I wouldn’t like to see Carlisle United being bought and sold like a commodity. A local football club means more than that for a city.”

They were, perhaps, that day's most prescient words. We can hold with them now as well. But please, after the grind and limitations of the past, let’s also enjoy sipping from the cup of ambition.