Paul Simpson sometimes recalls that, when he was at the Football Association, there was a study into the concept of momentum, and whether it was something that could be harnessed.

It was, he says, a largely elusive quest. Trying to get momentum under your control, totally understanding and using it for football gain, is like trying to redirect the wind, pin jelly to the wall.

You know it's there when you have it, and certainly its absence is noticed too. You can watch it take some sort of effect even if you can’t necessarily plan for it. Just don't try to quantify it, for that way insanity lies.

As such, this is about the what rather than the why. With Carlisle United right now there are concerns about where their current form, if you can call it that, might take them – how it risks overlapping into next season.

Relegation is a certainty, but what happens next is key. Take a rancid run of results all the way to the end of April, and the danger is that sort of direction will remain even as the Blues try to overhaul things in the summer. Or so the theory goes.

Well, we might not be able to analyse this kind of momentum but we can certainly observe if it’s an idea that holds. And – more or less – it does. The case for Carlisle to flatten the curve of their vertical form right now as a matter of importance is made strongly by history.

Before this season, the Blues have been relegated on nine different occasions. On eight of those, the following season they’ve ended up either bouncing back or sliding into a further struggle. Only once after the drop have they finished in mid-table.

More often than not, a bad finish to one season has meant a bad campaign afterwards. It implies that a losing culture is locked in, and wider circumstances have either not been able to defy that, or have actually made things worse.

If we look at the last ten games of all United’s relegation seasons, we will see quite clearly how the worst finishes generate an almost unstoppably bad momentum. The worst of them came in 1997/98, when the Blues lost nine and won one during their run-in.

News and Star: United were relegated with a whimper in 2014 - and the bad momentum continued into the following seasonUnited were relegated with a whimper in 2014 - and the bad momentum continued into the following season (Image: Stuart Walker)

They went down from the third tier with plenty to spare, and the following campaign back in the basement division was uniformly bad. Had it not been for a late-season signing’s eye for goal (goalkeeper, red jersey, you probably remember his name), they would have gone down again to non-league, and possibly towards oblivion.

Another rancid finish, by and large, was executed by the most recent United team to go down: Graham Kavanagh’s boys of 2013/14. In their final ten games, they achieved only one victory, four draws and five defeats.

They landed back in League Two with an underwhelming splat. And despite a summer recruitment drive, decent spending and a fan-inspired campaign to whip up crowd numbers, the awkward truth was that Carlisle were still rubbish. They struggled all season and, after a change of manager, only survived a second consecutive relegation with two weeks of the season to go.

Take 1986/87, too. Go on, as far away as you can. Two wins, eight defeats, a run-in for the gutter, a return to the fourth tier for the first time since the 1960s…and unarguably bad momentum which saw them second bottom the following year, saved a harder reckoning only by Newport County’s disarray.

Now, when the opposite has been the case, and United have gone down swinging a little more, there are clear enough examples of a more positive rebound. The 1995/96 season was an anticlimax after the deckchair army surge of the campaign before, but Carlisle were not complete lost causes in the third tier that term.

Strugglers, yes, a let-down, yes, but they did take things to the bitter end, winning five and losing five of their last ten games. The core of a good squad remained reliably there, results were not tanking completely, and Mervyn Day was able to refine things and take them straight back up again.

We can remember, too, relegation to the Conference in 2003/04: an historic low point, but not with irretrievably bad momentum. Paul Simpson had revamped the team and wider spirits before the run-in, and a final ten games featuring four wins, two draws and four defeats offered at least a competitive basis for a rebuild. A year later, they were promoted back into the Football League.

Similarly, United’s first-ever relegation, in 1962/63, was completed after a fair run-in of four wins, a draw and five defeats. The Blues were already repairing, with a bloke called McIlmoyle signed up front and a chap called Ashman appointed to the dugout. The following campaign they were promoted with a record goals tally.

The solitary tale of mediocrity in all this came in the seventies, when United suffered a second drop in three seasons in 1976/77, finishing with three wins, five draws and two defeats: not brilliant, far from disastrous, and enough to precede at least a little mid-table security in the Third Division next up as they started to recuperate.

A couple of outliers in all these stats are the relatively decent finishes to 1974/75 and 1985/86. The former saw United come down from the top-flight with a run-in of four wins, two draws and four defeats, only to struggle towards a fourth-bottom finish the following campaign. The latter, when United came down from Division Two, ended with five wins, a draw and four defeats: steady enough shape, you might think, but after Harry Gregg replaced Bob Stokoe, Carlisle went from bad to worse.

News and Star: United's current form is abysmal - and needs to be arrested to ease fears for next seasonUnited's current form is abysmal - and needs to be arrested to ease fears for next season (Image: Ben Holmes)

Nothing, then, is totally given. What we don’t have at all, though, is a case of a team ending a season wretchedly and then retrieving their mojo straight away. There might not be an FA study to explain all this but there is enough circumstantial evidence to say United really need to get their act together, within reason, in what’s left of this tenth relegation campaign the club will know.

Eleven defeats from 12, their pattern right now, is abysmal form, and needs to improve urgently. There can be no writing off the rest of the season, however tempting that feels. The Blues go down with a little feist, and we might be inclined to think they can start climbing again. Plummet in the current manner, and when it comes to imagining an about-turn, history’s cupboard is worryingly bare.