Four games, no goals, no assists – and the perfect distillation of the argument that football, sometimes, really isn’t about numbers at all.

Jamie Devitt, in those games against Leyton Orient, Rochdale, Oldham Athletic and Northampton Town, was not galloping beyond the strikers into the penalty area. He was not whipping free-kicks into the top corner like the Devitt of before. He was not pinging attractive passes through tight of gaps and making the ball, now and again, talk a different language to some of those around him.

That’s not what Carlisle United especially needed in that time of want. They had other flair players, runners, finishers even. What they were short of was some calm, some control, some long-lost glue.

News and Star: Devitt in action at Leyton Orient on his first start since rejoining the Blues in 2022Devitt in action at Leyton Orient on his first start since rejoining the Blues in 2022 (Image: Richard Parkes)

In those four games the spectacle was of a player gathering up all his experience, all his football wisdom, and applying it subtly but liberally. Devitt appeared to play a simple game that February and March but this had been a Carlisle side that, until then, had made the simple look like quantum physics.

Stringing passes together, gaining hold of a game, sound decisions in frenetic moments…it was, by the end, totally beyond the team of Keith Millen, who had signed Devitt in January but neglected to start him. Doing so was perhaps a risk in light of his recent injury history and lack of consistent football at Barrow.

Yet Paul Simpson recognised Devitt as just the man for the job. Alongside Callum Guy, Devitt gave a floundering Carlisle team some foundations again. He passed and he played when others had been faltering and panicking.

In those games the midfielder played 61, 67, 73 and 61 minutes. His season then ended with another injury. By then, though, United had 12 more points and a sudden gust of momentum that became irresistible in terms of their Football League survival.

News and Star: Devitt's nous was a crucial part of United's turnaround in the early days of Simmo's second reignDevitt's nous was a crucial part of United's turnaround in the early days of Simmo's second reign (Image: Richard Parkes)

Omari Patrick’s goals, Tobi Sho-Silva’s injury-time dramatics, Morgan Feeney’s commitment and Dynel Simeu’s crowd-pleasing stuff…those were the more obvious emblems of Carlisle’s resurgence that spring. Yet Devitt was an understated hero in that run which warded off the bleak likelihood of National League football.

It was not, perhaps, the game which we had known him for. It was, though, an example of how a good footballer and a smart football brain matures, and how a career sometimes has to put on different clothes in order to be good for longer.

The same, bittersweetly, applied to the rest of Devitt’s second Carlisle spell. There were a couple of beautiful flourishes – a first-time pass in the 3-3 draw with Rochdale almost brought poetry from some fans – but more often than not the growing physical brittleness which would, a couple of seasons later, finish off his career for good.

Yet Devitt was not a bit-part player when sidelined – quite the opposite, in fact, when considering how his personality helped a team maintain its composure, just about, when trying to pull off a remarkable promotion.

News and Star: Devitt, whilst injured, proved an important off-field character as United rose to promotionDevitt, whilst injured, proved an important off-field character as United rose to promotion (Image: Richard Parkes)

Once he had come out of the instant despair of a season-ending injury in April, Devitt supported a team that was trying to keep an unlikely chance in its hands. At half-time at Wembley, with United trailing in that play-off final to Stockport County, Devitt was urged by the rehab coach Geoff Haugh to hobble up to his team-mates, on his crutches, and distribute some advice and some focused encouragement. That he did.

In the heat of such a moment, short, telling messages often sink in the best. After Carlisle won the penalty shoot-out, Devitt’s smile was as broad as anyone’s, even if he must have been starting to assume that his days in league football were numbered, and even if it must have hurt that he hadn't been able to play on such a fizzing, magnificent day.

Now he has put the boots away for good, a fresh thigh injury limiting his availability for Workington Reds, it leads us to appreciate what Devitt offered not just in his hindered later years but also further back, when he entered Cumbria’s football world in his prime and, over time, made a real mark.

In 2016 he was one of those signings that made you feel glad Carlisle had finally got him. It was not long since Devitt had pulled every string imaginable in a 3-2 victory for Morecambe at Brunton Park that left you wishing a schemer like that was wearing the blue shirt.

The idea, as Keith Curle made his front-foot recruits that summer, was for Devitt and Shaun Miller, another arrival from Morecambe, to bring their telepathy to Carlisle, and assist a team Curle was stocking with other high-end League Two talent.

News and Star: Devitt at his best could make the ball talk - with a number of free-kick goals an example of thisDevitt at his best could make the ball talk - with a number of free-kick goals an example of this (Image: David Hollins)

It didn’t quite come off that way, since Devitt’s first season was an underwhelming one. Had he not signed a two-year deal, he freely confessed after 2016/17 had finished, he would probably have been released. It was over subsequent years that we finally saw the best of him, and Devitt also flourished into a midfield goalscorer the match of anyone at Carlisle’s level.

Once the finger came out of the dike with his first goal at Colchester United in October 2017, there was a new air about Devitt. It was as though he realised what he could now be to Curle’s team: its fulcrum, yes, but also its finisher and its threat. Why not?

This is where the numbers caught back up and started to reward his game which was clearly well-rounded after some bright and eventful years at other clubs. He reached double figures for scoring both that season and the next. The Dubliner’s ball-striking, his manipulation of flight and angle, were subtle and potent. There were some splendid, curling free-kicks, and also goals of dynamic force such as ones he took against Northampton Town and at Morecambe – a rare case, the latter seemed, of an ex-player haunting someone else, rather than coming back to hurt Carlisle.

In his third United season Devitt was superb when John Sheridan’s short reign was coming to its peak, with the young loan frontrunners of Jerry Yates and Ashley Nadesan very well served indeed by someone with a little culture behind them.

News and Star: Jamie Devitt and Richie Bennett celebrate a Carlisle goal at BuryJamie Devitt and Richie Bennett celebrate a Carlisle goal at Bury (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Devitt kept producing even after Sheridan, in whose angry crosshairs he and others had found themselves, had gone and Steven Pressley’s flawed tenure had started. By the end he’d taken 22 goals in 130 United appearances and the chance to move up the divisions, offered by Blackpool, was hardly one he was going to turn down at 28.

That, sadly, is where the rise halted, given how a sudden change of manager at Bloomfield Road made his path less certain, then injuries exacted their brutal and cumulative effect. Loans at Bradford City and Newport County offered only fleeting brightness while a permanent switch to Barrow again brought occasional and initial joys but too much of the other stuff as time passed.

As it did at Carlisle, when in the fading embers of the Millen-David Holdsworth days he came back: a crowd-pleasing name on January’s deadline day, one signing of several in what looked, overall, a desperate trolley dash.

At least you knew United were getting a good person into the mix, and they needed as many of those as they could get. Fragility was, sadly, a companion he couldn’t shake off but Paul Simpson, upon replacing Millen, felt he knew what he’d get from Devitt in the short-term, and he was emphatically right.

There were many components to Carlisle’s improvement but Devitt was certainly an important one, as he was as a non-playing accomplice in their first promotion for 17 years. A touch of gratitude, then, seems appropriate now he’s officially an ex-player, and that – plus the knowledge of how entertaining he was to people when at his best – will hopefully go with him into retirement and whatever uncertainty and regret precedes his next move.

He gave, all in all, more than fate tried to allow him, and he’ll never want for popularity round here. All the reasons for that speak well of Jamie Devitt.