Man signs contract. Man works for duration of said contract. Man opts not to sign another contract. Man may move to different employer.

In anything other than the anxious, passionate world of football, that sort of timeline wouldn’t make headlines, wouldn’t arouse opinion and fury.

There’s no point recommending passion is removed from any analysis of Owen Moxon’s situation, because take passion out of football and you’re not left with a great deal at all.

All the same, the most sensible and cool-headed starting point when looking at what Paul Simpson disclosed on Thursday is not to castigate the player, not to work out how loudly you can jeer, but to see this in employment terms, as a man operating within his rights and in breach of nothing – or certainly nothing that’s written down.

All anyone owes anybody when signing a contract is to work appropriately, responsibly and productively under its terms. Moxon did so exceptionally last season, less proficiently this season, but unless anyone can prove he’s actively reduced his output because of all the uncertainty of the past few months, the midfielder is clear to do as he is doing.

And of course there are risks – risks that the 26-year-old must bear. The risk of how his time-limited commitment to Carlisle United is now regarded by his manager as he selects a team to strive for safety.

News and Star: Moxon was inspired in United's promotion push before a less impressive and more challenging campaign in League OneMoxon was inspired in United's promotion push before a less impressive and more challenging campaign in League One (Image: Richard Parkes)

The risk of what offers and approaches he and his agent, the former United manager Graham Kavanagh, may or may not be able to attract and secure either now or in the summer.

The risk of a relegation season, and a campaign not of sparkling overall output, influencing the appetite of suitors. The risk of what the public will continue to think of it, however angry or measured they choose to be.

The risk of a club that has signed two midfielders already this month choosing to pick them instead of him, both with the present and the future in mind. The risk of consequences from that on profile, on form.

Any player with his eyes and ears open must be attuned to that. Moxon is no fool, but a thoughtful individual who will know what he’s walking through right now.

From his perspective, let us hope he can do so soundly in the mind. From Carlisle’s point of view, let us hope they can operate with due clarity however much or little they choose to rely on Moxon from here.

From everyone else’s perspective: it might be worth thinking that, instead of trying to pin blame or partiality on someone, perhaps there isn’t any to give out.

Moxon’s own duties are to himself and to his employer. If he has 18 more games in a Carlisle shirt he is required to give the best of himself. It is easy to argue that a head-turned player will not do the latter but few of us know exactly how Moxon has been thinking as he’s been playing this season, at a higher and much more demanding level.

News and Star: Moxon's United future is in doubt as he runs his contract downMoxon's United future is in doubt as he runs his contract down (Image: Ben Holmes)

In terms of his future, a player in his mid-twenties relatively new to the professional game who is seeking to explore his options, in the wake of a fairly recent blast of terrific form at League Two level, is not a traitor but someone mindful of his future, his earning prospects, his CV status and what heights he might reach in the game while he has time.

The idea Kavanagh, meanwhile, is in some way out to sabotage United, presumably in light of his being sacked by the club nearly a decade ago, is not especially reliable either. Kavanagh might not have relished receiving his cards in August 2014 but that was then; an agent’s job is to protect his client’s interests and, by association, his or his company’s own. Again, who could prove he is acting on a grievance?

It's possible to argue that the decision conveyed to the public by Simpson on Thursday could have come sooner, that United could have been kept hanging not quite so long. Again, though, neither Moxon nor his representative had any such obligation. Chances are, Kavanagh wants the best move for the midfielder, for all the varied benefits that can entail.

This doesn’t make him a man with a grudge. It makes him an agent.

Carlisle, too, have not been flawed in this. After Moxon’s outstanding 2022/23 season – a shooting comet of a campaign after his move from Annan Athletic – the club were quick in tabling improved terms.

They could not have made it clearer how much they valued him, how much they wanted to build around him. According to Simpson, the club during his time as manager have never offered a more lucrative deal. Carlisle, then, tried to raise their ceiling for the midfielder. That's clear enough commitment right there.

In many respects it would have been the easy and favourable thing for Moxon to grab the pen straight away: a better salary, the continued and even enhanced love of the people. One of our own, here for as long as we want him! It’s rarely like that in football, alas.

Nor, from another angle, should it matter, as some have suggested, that Carlisle dumped Moxon at 16 and so why should he give them an ounce of extra loyalty now?

United did not “dump” Moxon. They released him because at that age they did not feel he was good enough. That is the harsh, painful, imprecise but very real world of youth football, witnessed every year, everywhere.

News and Star: All Moxon owes United is to give the best of himself for what's left of his contractAll Moxon owes United is to give the best of himself for what's left of his contract (Image: Richard Parkes)

Nobody at even the most elite clubs would profess perfection in such judgements. At Carlisle, the call on Jarrad Branthwaite at that age came down to one deciding vote. The idea, though, that they and others are carelessly and heartlessly turfing out major talent season after season does not stand up.

Not very many make it back. To his enormous credit, Moxon – eight years after his academy release – is one who did. Now he wants to test his chances of going on again.

Again, remove emotion from it – again, not easy in this game – and it’s hard to pillory him for that.

Plainly it is a position Carlisle cannot regard as ideal, given what they’re facing on the pitch right now. Simpson’s remark that clarity on the matter now could restore Moxon to his best form does suggest a belief that this saga has clouded his mind to some degree.

As ever, United’s manager is better placed than most of us to venture a view on that. Actions, as ever, will speak louder than words or theories. If Moxon’s here until the summer, 18 games of full-frontal commitment can still leave a positive legacy. Eighteen games of disengagement would not make it as warm a parting.

One thing’s surely true, though. Castigating him, even booing as some have proposed, serves no tangible benefit. In business terms it doesn’t create the best environment for performance; and emotionally, who’d really get a kick out of battering a lad from Denton Holme who’s done so much, more than many over recent years, to get the club of his city into higher places, leaving some fine memories in the process?

There was another player, an era back at Carlisle, who let his contract run down one spring in spite of club and public appeals. He wanted to explore what was out there. He has a bar at the ground named after him today, happens to be Moxon's former manager, and is one case at Brunton Park where L for Legend truly applies.

Moxon may not be that but let there, at least, be a degree of harmony and understanding over this short spell ahead, rather than a sourness of feeling. Guilty parties, much as we like to seek them, are there none.