Paul Simpson famously used to write no more than six weeks ahead in his diary. Greg Abbott said the job was akin to "dodging oncoming traffic".

Those managers from different Carlisle United eras are colleagues now and could no doubt compare notes and views. And surely have done.

And we are here again, for some at least: serious and legitimate criticism of the Blues' downward path on the pitch now serving up the debate nobody would have considered remotely likely on that steaming hot day of promotion last May.

“Any other manager would have gone by now,” runs the argument. That may well be correct but that eight-word opinion also contains the rebuttal which deserves, now, to have its day.

Paul Simpson is not any other manager. At Carlisle, he is one of the genuine greats. Few are higher on the rungs immediately below Alan Ashman, the all-time leading dugout figure at this eventful and neurotic old club.

As such – too right he deserves more slack than others would receive. Too right his body of work entitles him the licence to figure this out, to show the present problems are not terminal, to demonstrate that the football brain that has produced absolute sorcery at Brunton Park is smart enough to get the graph moving upwards again.

News and Star: Simpson has more than enough credit in the bank to warrant patience nowSimpson has more than enough credit in the bank to warrant patience now (Image: Richard Parkes)

Too right he gets the patience others would not. Too right he gets the belief that his handle on his turbulent profession at the club of his home city has not vanished completely at the first downturn.

This will no doubt be taken by some as another case of the media shoring up behind a popular legend in spite of the hard present evidence. In which case, we’ll have to accept those blows.

Candidly, journalists shouldn’t generally campaign for people to lose their jobs – the mendacious, the damaging and the corrupt aside (and there are enough of those folks out there in society). A football manager struggling for results shouldn’t find himself in our crosshairs in the same way without rare and unqualified reason.

So perhaps the alternative viewpoint wouldn’t get written in this space with the same vehemence. Again, point taken.

All the same, this is a sincerely-held view and if it comes with a jump of faith, rather than guided purely by the present state of affairs, well, who deserves that sort of leap more than Paul Simpson?

Who deserves to see us cling on, a little longer, to the idea that he does know what he’s doing, that he isn’t the busted managerial flush the most scathing critics are starting to say, that there can still be a rise again after this painful low?

Has the well of faith honestly run dry, so soon? Has ‘In Simmo We Trust’ been totally daubed over already?

To my mind the man warrants better than that, even if no position in football can be permanent if results and direction do not, at some stage, offer at least a flicker of light.

In the latest BBC Cumbria ‘Carlisle Social’ podcast the commentator James Phillips went to the barricades for Simpson, citing the fact that United’s only three promotions since 1997 have been won by Paul Simpson, Paul Simpson and Paul Simpson.

It is and it isn’t the dominant way to see this. It certainly is because those promotions conferred iconic status on the Cumbrian and put serious and tangible achievements on the table. It definitely is because Simpson has a track record of succeeding at United far more than he’s failed.

News and Star: Simpson's United suffered a fifth straight defeat at Orient on Saturday and are looking likely to be relegated back to League TwoSimpson's United suffered a fifth straight defeat at Orient on Saturday and are looking likely to be relegated back to League Two (Image: Richard Parkes)

On that basis alone it is possible to make the case for him turning this, because that tends to happen much more often than not.

It is not, though, the only set of facts to hold sway given that two of those promotions were 19 and 18 years ago. Outstanding and indeed essential they were, yet - as Pete from thebuzzisback forum also argued cogently on that podcast, Carlisle for some of the other intervening time since '97 was no place for a promotion-winning manager. Sometimes simply saving the club from itself (Ian Atkins springs to mind) was achievement worthy of the pantheon.

When, at a fans’ forum a while back, former co-owner Steven Pattison cited his financial contribution for the signing of Stuart Green two decades ago, he was mocked. What have you done for us lately, many asked? The question, in the right context and with due respect, can be fair.

The teams of Hawley and Bridges and Westwood and Gray can never be downgraded. They shaped many supporting lives and Simpson's building and leading of them was magnificent. The serious and hard-won wisdom from that period will, to some degree, have guided Simpson in more recent work, as all achievements should. Yet more relevant, all in all, is the 2022 about-turn, when he showed a modern touch in firing up the Blues anew in a game, even at lower levels, that has evolved.

Football’s treadmill only runs forward. This is about his acumen to fix what’s wrong in 2024. This includes, to pick examples: Carlisle’s worsening form and performance levels from an already lowish berth in a hard division; their deteriorating defensive record; their mishandling of set-pieces; and their need for a more reliable and progressive style of play, with new signings blended in, that is fit to compete in League One, or at least make the landing back to League Two less troubling than it risks being.

Every fan will have their own list of others. For instance: the view that the January market was put forward too soon as a panacea, with a detrimental effect on the psychology of players who had to do the work long before the window opened.

Setting that out so honestly might not have made the existing team think better of themselves. But let nobody be fooled that they were on course for a markedly better season had Simpson spoken differently in the media. There is no evidence to say as much.

There is also the argument that different selections might have tipped all this down a better road. Paul Huntington, for example. Someone whose experience, leadership and dominance might have enhanced this season as it did last.

And well it might have. And no, it’s not a view easily dismissed when looking at the current defensive malaise. At the same time, United with Huntington have won one, drawn four and lost eight games this season. Without him, it’s four, four and 14.

Comparing these stats might be like asking which direction you’d like your comb-over. And of course, getting a blend, formulating it over time, isn’t just down to bare numbers. Yet the above does not paint Simpson as a doofus who’s ignoring a magic solution that’s under his nose.

Recruitment – the post-promotion challenges, the market, the money, how it was and wasn't deployed – is plainly an area riper for scrutiny. Again, Simpson has offered such scrutiny up himself in public when it comes to what Carlisle tried to do, what they did and what they didn’t/couldn’t. Whether they could have performed better, in all the circumstances, remains a matter of passionate opinion.

Coaching is another area being pinpointed, and it would be hard to make the case for this being flawless right now given United, at present, seem so far beneath most of their peers in the third tier, are not bridging the gap at all and, in areas where they really could help themselves, like set-pieces, are failing badly too.

News and Star: United's problems are plain - but Simpson deserves the chance to fix themUnited's problems are plain - but Simpson deserves the chance to fix them (Image: Richard Parkes)

Resolving these is primarily on the manager, as well as aspects of the wider club. Given the paucity of quality at Orient on Saturday that job appears more pressing than before.

Yet surely there's a strong leaning towards the man more responsible than anyone else lately for good times at Carlisle being allowed to attempt that task, before casting his position “untenable” or gone-beyond in the way we might a managerial AN Other.

Let the man, whose ambitious vision and intent to lift the Blues finally looks to be coming off in so many other areas at Brunton Park, be trusted to have enough of the right footballing stuff, still.

Let him show us yet again – for management is a constant, revolving examination, whatever you've done before – why he’s good, and good particular to this place.

“I don’t for one minute think I was a fantastic manager when we got promotion,” said Simpson on Saturday. “And I don't think I'm a horrendous manager now.”

The balance in that view is sound. What we have here is someone who pulled off an extraordinary 2022 and a promotion in 2023's first half, and someone who couldn’t arrest the struggle in 2023's second half that’s now overlapped into 2024.

So which is Simpson? The "fantastic" manager of a short while ago or the "horrendous" manager of a shorter while ago? The king, or a pauper? Binary views like this are why football management is such a hasty, temporary vocation.

The opportunity for United to play its part in that mad world again might yet come. But not, please, before we’ve given an outstanding figure his extended due, and his chance.