If you were looking through history for a Carlisle United side that could defend, chances are your first stop wouldn’t be Roddy Collins’ team of 2002/03. Yet, for a short while, they most definitely could. Stay with me on this.

That collective of chaos, of eight-man wins, of boozing and brawls and multiple defeats? Yep. That lot.

Early in that, shall we say, eventful campaign, Collins’ team knitted together three straight clean sheets. Might not sound a lot, but it’s not easy. United, obviously, haven’t done it this season, and only managed it once in 2022/23’s promotion campaign.

In August 2002, Collins’ XI, which was in many ways rushed together in the last days of pre-season after the John Courtenay takeover finally went through, kept the back door bolted against Southend United, Lincoln City and Bristol Rovers in successive games.

What happened next? It quickly went the other way, of course. Why? Partly, we have to say, because United suddenly had money. And, if unafraid to spend it, they were not particularly adept in its use.

Those three clean-sheet games saw their central defensive positions staffed by the stalwart Stuart Whitehead and the emerging Lee Andrews. At half-time in the next game, at Darlington, Collins replaced Andrews with the new £100,000 signing Darren Kelly at half-time with the score 0-0.

Carlisle conceded two in the second half and any sense of security was soon lost. It took them another 14 games to keep another clean sheet and, by then, their trajectory was set. It required victory in the penultimate game of the season to ensure Football League survival, and United conceded more goals at home than any other side in the division.

A few months later, Collins was gone, all that largesse for nothing. In fairness, United’s financial issues were not all gone for much of his reign but it’s still an object lesson in the unexpected stress and friction you can find when going from not having money to having some.

News and Star: Carlisle started 2002/03 solidly...but some misguided spending soon knocked things off courseCarlisle started 2002/03 solidly...but some misguided spending soon knocked things off course (Image: News & Star)

By the early noughties Carlisle were readily accustomed to being battlers and scufflers. Their archetype was the Ian Atkins dogs-of-war side of 2000/01, who stayed up in spite of a miserable collection of circumstances in the last throes of Michael Knighton’s ownership.

Making the transition to relative wealth was complicated then, as it has been elsewhere. On the BBC Cumbria Carlisle Social podcast this week, James Phillips noted the problems Crawley Town suffered last season despite being furnished with plenty of their new cryptocurrency owners’ money.

It’s also revealing to look at how others regenerate, how they’re accustomed to finding answers from within rather than by buying on a major level. With Luke Armstrong, Harrogate Town finished 19th and 19th in League Two. Without him, they’re currently seventh.

This is not to say that the Yorkshire club would not have willingly kept a motivated Armstrong had circumstances allowed. But right now they’re in a happier place than Carlisle (albeit a division lower, for the moment). This is a tribute, clearly, to the management of Simon Weaver and his No2, a certain Paul Thirlwell.

And of course there are many examples of clubs and teams breaking new ground with injections of cash. You only need look at the top three places in League Two to see some, while a number are dotted around non-league. Equally there are basket cases who have floundered when spending good (or dodgy) money badly.

The curse, perhaps, is assuming new wealth will answer most of your questions. I do not for one moment believe Paul Simpson is that way inclined – indeed, the manager is on record more than once about the need to outlay the Piataks’ money with care, not lavishly – but it is undeniable that the work Carlisle hoped would sort their season in the winter market has had the opposite effect so far.

News and Star: Crawley Town struggled last season despite their new owners' cryptocurrency wealthCrawley Town struggled last season despite their new owners' cryptocurrency wealth (Image: PA)

From a struggling record pre-January, United’s results are now wretched. This is not to say they’ve filled their squad with Roddy Collins signings. But it is to say that money is not always a panacea and, in awkward times of transition, it can sometimes give the impression of creating new problems just as it sweeps old ones away.

You’d always want the former, naturally. Carlisle, once they better adjust to this new era, can do so much more under the Piataks than they could have imagined with their previous owners. These are the early steps of what is designed to be a dynasty. You can’t build one of those on buttons.

Was, though, too much emphasis placed this season on what the “step change” budget might do?

“I really couldn't give you an answer to that one,” Simpson told me after the 4-0 defeat to Cambridge United.

“Yes, we were all very, very hopeful that, with the improvement in playing budget, that it was going to give us a real fighting chance.

“But the results haven't reflected it. There's a whole host of issues that are not right.”

Carlisle have, so far, deployed their welcome new resources on areas that go beyond a simple transfer window splurge. There are new backroom staff members, while aspects of the ground and players' houses are being spruced up. Bigger plans for the stadium and training facilities are evident.

This is a project for the long-term, that much we know. And the Piataks do not give the impression of being egotists just here for the ride. Their acumen, you feel, gives the club the best chance of getting this right in the fullness of time.

The reminder is simply on psychological terms: when you can suddenly spend, and it sorts nothing, what then? What you have to do, above all, is fall back on your ideas, your quality and your bottom line in areas other than hard cash. This is where the Blues are right now, and the answers need to be good.