Comment: the window simply has to open at Carlisle United soon
The Blues are under pressure to do some business before next week's deadline - and, as in past Januarys, the need for reinforcements is plain, argues Jon Colman
This transfer window at Carlisle United is not a case of want. It is about need, hence the desperation for tumbleweed to stop blowing and some ink finally applied to contracts.
The Blues' requirements have been apparent since Nicky Adams went down in November and Jason Kennedy's injury proved much more complicated than first hope.
Add those to United's meandering in mid-table, short of real attacking consistency, and the only serious conclusion is that they have six more days to make the right calls, shake the appropriate hands and do the business that can save their campaign from mediocrity.
Anything less - any shortage of quality signings before the clock strikes 11pm next Wednesday - and it would be as underwhelming as any transfer window at Brunton Park.
The pressure is on Keith Curle and the club to get things pushed across the line. Selling the merits of a team positioned 12th in League Two might not be a cinch but many others at their level have already been trading, Carlisle one of the few yet to move.
There have been thwarted attempts, that much we know. Marc Richards and George Miller are two targets who have preferred other places. Other names remain in the mix, the accent on attacking positions such as striker and the wings.
Curle is believed to be looking at possibilities both experienced and young, and closer to some than others. The usual game of bluff, involving players, clubs, agents and the media, becomes more intense at this time of January.
Yet supporters are entitled to think of that as a load of noise until something tangible comes in. The talk has been relatively positive, from chief executive Nigel Clibbens' pledge that "extra cash" has been made available to Curle, to the manager's request that people should "trust" in him and his recruitment processes.
Both promises now need to deliver. A hard-luck story come February 1 will be failure, additions to the list of those that got away will be failure, a squad barely improved from what United have today will be failure, no question about it.
Those in charge of making deals happen at Brunton Park may be feeling the heat as the days tick by and fans' impatience grows. So be it. A difficulty in being "proactive" in the year's first month has been highlighted by Curle in the past, while with last August's quiet deadline day came an implication that some powder may remain dry for the next window.
Things can change, budgets may shift, and while United have done deals since August 31 (Clint Hill's arrival, James Brown's extension, Jack Bonham the same) those have all happened before the "extra cash" promise and whatever beans have been added from Carlisle's FA Cup run.
Carlisle, it is plain, are short of assets going forward. A departure for Shaun Miller to Crewe would open debate even if the financial terms end up to the Blues' liking, and would also make room that United would simply have to fill, up front.
If others leave - defender Mark Ellis is again out of favour, and usually tends to have admirers in the division below at least - it would fall to United to reinvest whatever they make or save.
Making the best of January is hardly a new challenge at Brunton Park. Often, over the last decade, it has been a time of upheaval and scramble, and it cannot be said that United have routinely come out of the month in better order.
Last year the first 31 days of 2017 did not enhance the Blues, because Charlie Wyke's sale to Bradford deprived the team of one of its surest things - a natural goalscorer - and that overshadowed the month's other main work (the signings of Gary Liddle and John O'Sullivan, the deadline-day loan grabs of Jamie Proctor and George Waring).
Mentioned in dispatches in the same month were the departures of Joe McKee and David Atkinson, yet United's springtime struggles remained such that a glut of forgettable short-term free agents were then recruited (Ben Tomlinson, James Hooper, Joe Ward, the crowdfunded Junior Joachim).
That part of the "process" is something most supporters would not wish to see repeated. January 2016 was a little less turbulent, Gary Dicker's departure, Ellis' permanent arrival, Brandon Comley's loan move and Hallam Hope's loan extension the main features, but United did not exactly gain speed as they hit the final laps.
Likewise, the first half of 2015 remained a struggle even after one of Carlisle's better January signings (Wyke, from Middlesbrough, whose goals helped the survival push) and the lesser addition of Nathan Buddle.
Yet that was nothing compared to January 2014's activity: a hectic month of loan dealings which saw Carlisle lose Tom Lawrence and Max Ehmer and gain Michael Drennan, Sam Byrne and Charni Ekangamene, with others joining shortly afterwards, not that it helped Graham Kavanagh's rapidly-changing team stop their slide to relegation.
At times United's hand has been forced, at others they have not helped themselves. There was little they could do, in the end, to outmuscle Preston in the race for Joe Garner in January 2013, but history has not judged the decision to sanction a permanent departure of Paddy Madden to Yeovil kindly. Sean O'Hanlon, a free agent at the back, was an effective arrival.
Jordan Cook, one of January 2012's arrivals, was better news, while 2011 threw Greg Abbott the test of losing both James Chester and Gary Madine, mid-season. The manager consolidated with the likes of Madden, Rory Loy, Liam Noble, Joe Dudgeon and Liam Cooper, also converting Lubo Michalik's loan after the rather less memorable New Year's Eve addition of Marco Gbarssin, as a hoped-for play-off push settled into mid-table and a Johnstone's Paint Trophy win.
In 2010, there was the damaging loss of Vincent Pericard, offset by extensions for Adam Clayton (loan) and Tom Taiwo (permanent), before Abbott had a 50 per cent success rate on January's deadline day when signing Darryl Duffy (miss) and the younger Ben Marshall (hit).
That came 12 months after Abbott's first January window, in a season that went to the wire at the wrong end of League One. Ins in 2009 included Joe Anyinsah from Preston and Graham Kavanagh (permanently) from Sunderland, and outs included the controversial sale of Simon Hackney to Colchester and the end of Tim Krul's brief, impressive loan stint in goal.
The year before, they were trying to make the most of a campaign that was heading the other way, yet despite John Ward's moves for Scott Dobie, Evan Horwood, Grant Smith and Cleveland Taylor, United fell at the last, in the play-offs to Leeds.
In some of the aforementioned seasons, further significant business was done later, such as Ian Harte's arrival late in the day in 2008/9 and regular spring loans.
With the emergency loan window having been abolished in 2016, though, the only way Carlisle could do similar this time would be through the free agent market.
Curle believes the current restrictions on trading should be relaxed, at least where Under-23 players are concerned. You do not have to go far to find other managers who feel windows in general are unhelpful, while Carlisle are not in favour of plans to bring the summer deadline forward.
Those, though, are debates for another day. The next six are all about United doing all they can to get some deals done, and the entrance door at Brunton Park simply has to open in due course - otherwise the void would be filled by questions, instead.