Many years after he’d turned down Manchester United, feeling he’d have a better shot at immediate first-team football at Crystal Palace, Matt Jansen was approached at a charity golf day by Sir Alex Ferguson.

The two chatted convivially, and Ferguson couldn’t resist reminding Jansen of the time he’d knocked him back.

“Why would I have tried to sign you if I wasn’t going to play you?” asked Ferguson.

Jansen never regretted his decision, it should be said. Things were, after all, going absolutely swimmingly for him – a Premier League star with Blackburn Rovers, an England call-up – until the moped accident in Italy in 2002 that affected his career and rocked his life.

The point in revisiting this story is simply to underline and remind ourselves just how good Jansen was – and how good, in comparison, we may have to start considering Jarrad Branthwaite to be too.

For my money, Jansen is the gold standard when we consider all the talent that has come out of Carlisle United’s academy. The fact Alex Ferguson courted him, several times, is the highest possible endorsement.

This was, after all, Manchester United not at today's variable levels, but at their late-1990s peak: the side that won titles and trophies and trebles, that took the Champions League in 1999 and established a dynasty with too many greats to list.

Ferguson wanted Jansen in that team. That team. Show me anyone who’s come out of Carlisle’s youth system, since it was formed, who can say something like that.

News and Star: Branthwaite has been named in the latest England squadBranthwaite has been named in the latest England squad (Image: PA)

Of course the old centre of excellence, and the more modern academy, has produced significant footballers both then and since. Rory Delap was a Premier League player of outstanding skill and durability. Paul Murray might have played for England had injuries not intervened when they did.

The others in that 1990s golden crop – Scott Dobie, Lee Peacock, Paul Boertien, Paul Reid, Tony Caig, and many more – played at impressive levels and had fine careers. In more recent times, individuals such as Kyle Dempsey have emerged from United with fire and ability.

Then there are those who departed early, before they were men. Dean Henderson, James Trafford and Joe White also fly the flag proudly for Cumbrian youth at the top level today.

Branthwaite, though, appears to have the potential to outstrip all of those, already has done in some cases - and could possibly go past even Jansen too, should he stay on track, should he continue to flourish and grow.

An England squad member at 21, a debut surely now a matter of time, a Premier League defensive regular at the top-flight game’s furthest evolutionary point, and a young man being watched and fancied by pretty much every elite club you may wish to name…yes, this is serious business.

This is one hell of a young player. This is in the ball park of being as good as it gets, for home-grown talent. This is someone who could make Carlisle United rich, should such a whopping great transfer from Everton eventually come about.

This is also someone who can make all of us, very proud indeed: a torch-carrier for this area, for his town (Wigton), our county and the idea that you can come from anywhere, absolutely anywhere, provided you’re good enough and have the right folk in your corner – and so can anybody else who wants to follow you, be inspired by you.

Jansen was from Wetheral, Delap from Great Corby, Murray from Denton Holme. They lit the path for those areas, for Carlisle and its surroundings. So did the greats from around here who did not play for the Blues: Kevin Beattie and Peter Thompson, for instance.

But as an example of a boy coming through a local club, whilst negotiating the challenges and pitfalls of youth football and young life, Branthwaite is our frontman now and potentially for all time. At the least he should play for his country several times; it could be many times.

Not a great amount, from round here, can say that of themselves. So let’s applaud the kid from Wigton on his way, every step of it. Let’s cheer him towards history.