It is often described as a turnaround to defy belief, a survival job superbly executed – not a miracle, maybe, but not too many rungs down from that given the mood and apparent level of Carlisle United until that point.

And all those terms of description are absolutely correct when we think back to the spring of 2022, and how Paul Simpson turned a team bound for the National League and an historically grim reckoning into one that could gallop to safety by a fair few lengths.

Even without the knowledge of what came next, the rescue mission that season in League Two was remarkable, and will stay forever on Simpson’s ledger of good and crucial work at his home-city club.

And what was the gap to survival when he took charge on February 23 that year? One point.

Now, numbers do not always present the whole context and in this case they certainly don't. Carlisle’s football and, just as importantly, the wider mood had reached profoundly low levels. The need for what Simpson brought could not have been clearer nor, when it came, more gratefully received.

Yet it only highlights the mountain the Blues are looking up at now to think that, in the pit of crisis two seasons ago, they were only one-tenth of the amount adrift than they are in League One now.

Carlisle hit remarkable form from February to May in 2022, winning eight of their last 15 games and gaining 25 points: just under half their overall season’s total. Truly magnificent work.

In the event they could have got away with just 11 points from that spell and it would have been enough. All they needed was to be better than Scunthorpe United and Oldham Athletic: not, in hindsight, the loftiest bar in football history.

News and Star: Carlisle survived superbly in 2022, but had a much smaller gap to bridge than the current sideCarlisle survived superbly in 2022, but had a much smaller gap to bridge than the current side (Image: Ben Holmes)

It is different this time, considerably different. Ten points must be made up before Carlisle can even think about survival. Whilst one win in 2022 was capable of giving them a heads-up on rivals, this time it would only present a slightly better chance of remaining competitive.

Right now William Hill are offering a price of 1/8 for Carlisle to go down. Now, bookmakers are not always the great seers of our time however much value we give their foresight.

Yet, by way of comparison, United’s relegation price is the same as that offered by BetVictor for Phil Foden to make the England squad for Euro 2024. Harry Kane is only slightly shorter at 1/10.

Barring injury, Phil Foden and Harry Kane will make the England squad. This is racing-certainty territory. In other words, nobody, other than the remaining believers in Brunton Park and in the stands, fancy Carlisle to do this. Ten points, 18 games left? Do me a favour.

So what can they do? Use all of this. Seize it as a tool. This would, in all probability, be the best Lazarus act by a Blues team in terms of making up a shortfall in limited time in order to survive.

Imagine being the side to do it. Imagine how it could feel from here if, come the end of April, you’ve given it an absolute lash and, incredibly, pulled it off?

Even a significant upturn that fails narrowly to avert relegation can set the stage for another revival, as Carlisle discovered in 2004. The current task, though, is to take this fight as deeply as it will go and to do exactly as that word says: fight.

League One’s general level makes the idea of United simply playing their way to safety a daunting one. Even the strugglers they’ve faced, such as Exeter City and Reading, have proved comparatively superior on technique.

As such, Carlisle have to apply something else to their efforts, whatever else they can do in the transfer market. Everyone they face from this point onwards will ring United’s name on the calendar as just about the best opportunity for points they will get.

The Blues have to serve some of these hopefuls with the most foaming pint of salty tears they can. They have to find ways to offer annoyance to the Boltons, the Portsmouths, the Barnsleys...even the Derby Countys if United are still in it by April 27.

The Stevenages, too. Which would make for quite a role reversal. Steve Evans’ side have adapted superbly to the third tier this season but on their way up often proved adept at getting up noses, as they did under certain earlier managers.

Can Carlisle try a bit of that? Can they be a little more sharp-elbowed, a shade more savvy in the face of teams with higher aims and supposedly more refined football?

Can they do the odd thing that would leave purists with moral dilemmas, where the end justified the pragmatic means? This is a new campaign now, a short-term one comprising 54 available points. Time to pull on some different clothes and see how they fit.

Time to go down as the United team that raged against those pitiful odds. Time to pull off a few results that nobody saw coming. Time for a little spell which gave that 30-point cluster of teams the heebie-jeebies.

Manage that, by whatever which way, and the tone of the season can change at the very least. Everything that’s happened in 2023/24 deserves the context of United’s recent journey, the unexpected speed of improvement last term and the heady challenges it has suddenly put the Blues up against.

News and Star: This is the 25th anniversary season of a certain survival miracle...This is the 25th anniversary season of a certain survival miracle... (Image: Phil Rigby)

All the same – relegation by a distance would still feel a sad end to this particular mission, even if the wider picture appears highly positive under the Piataks and even if Simpson continues to be the man with whom you’d entrust the club’s future.

So let there be some fury before it comes to that. This is, let’s not forget, the 25th anniversary of the season of Jimmy Glass. That there hasn’t been another in all that time shows its rarity.

We’re not at that stage yet but in some ways the job’s even more remote. The greatest escape this would most probably be; nothing, though, in football is pre-written. And if there’s a club weirdly capable of doing this, in spite of all the hard evidence, should we not have at least some faith that it's Carlisle?