Keep using your head, Chris Beech told Harry McKirdy. Might now be the time to suggest that message goes a little further, and be considered by those still tempted, for whatever reason, to attack him?

That’s attack, not criticise. Nobody is above the latter, especially in a Carlisle United season when the league table reminds you of the story so far.

If McKirdy was raising a finger to his lips and shushing folk who simply felt he could be a bit more consistent, or less theatrical, then Beech would be entitled to tell him to lower that digit and get on with his job.

The anecdotal (and in some cases, written) evidence, though, suggests it has been more than that: voices in the crowd saying unpleasant things, dolts on social media levelling insults they would not dare offer in the street.

Faced with that, from vague points on a terrace or online in a place you have occupied for a few months, why wouldn’t you, at some stage, be inclined to give a little back? Why wouldn’t you think of saying "sod off" in the rough direction the mud may have come from, instead of tucking your head between your shoulders or – that piece of advice easily offered in situations like this – “rising above it”?

Some footballers are just not built that way. Nor are many folk in general. Thinking McKirdy the bad guy, just because his fuse may be short enough to spark a response, tips the balance of scrutiny too far on his side.

Whilst all this has been festering, McKirdy has become Carlisle’s top scorer. In a season of few reliables, his nine goals are of a player who merits persistence. We may not be talking a Charlie Wyke or a Karl Hawley here, but currently he is United’s nearest thing to a finisher. A tally of 15 or so ought to be realistic now, and that would be a credible return for a first full season of first-team play.

In which case, the question is worth asking with more emphasis: what are those who bait or barrack trying to achieve?

The answer seems obvious: to get a rise. With his self-published shushing photo and matching celebration, and apparent reluctance to go towards Carlisle’s fans after away games, McKirdy has obliged.

Some will lap that up. Others, like the greater number who sang his name at Cardiff, may regret that they are not in the tightest embrace with one of their best players at present.

That majority will have a more nuanced view. It balances fairly-voiced criticism of McKirdy’s volatile season with a few questions, such as: so what if he is not the quietest of chaps? So what that he wears his emotions more openly than others? So what if he keeps his socks at a low length and, every so often, answers back?

So what if he tweets about going to Chelsea the day after being ruled too unwell to play? (Unless he had defied orders to do so, and there is no evidence for that, this was no great controversy, even if it could be argued he misread the mood the day after a sorry Blues defeat).

So what if he is, at 22, one of those characters some people can’t get enough of, and others find a nightmare? So he provides colour. Is it not better to have that, provided there is enough output to justify the hassle?

And is it, whatever his ratio, in any way forgivable to set about him, just because there is something brash about the cut of his gib?

Of course not. This is about a small number, as these things usually are, yet that doesn’t stop it jarring when someone a little different comes along and there are one or two waiting to turn that back against him, the moment things go off-kilter.

If this has prompted McKirdy to lose some affinity with the mass who pay to watch him, most of whom want him to do well, that would be a sad development. Even if it has given him something to rage against – a sort of defiant goalscoring intent – it is hardly sustainable.

It doesn’t make you think he would wish to be here for the long run, the feeling that a few extra opponents are out there on Saturdays, as well as the 11 on the pitch.

It is true that nobody is obliged to be on social media, and leaving that world might be an easy avenue towards safety. Being the more mature figure, by not reacting so impulsively in general, is another way. Nor, though, is it on the recipient of flak to take the first step back, and in any case there are only so many places a footballer can conceal himself.

Beech, in his six weeks in charge, has given the impression of being intrigued by the tasks at hand. Unlocking McKirdy’s potential is the sort of challenge any self-respecting manager would want to get his teeth into.

It might be a route of bumps and sometimes unwanted diversions, but when you watched him finishing so well with his head against Cardiff last weekend, having responded to advice from his boss to “stay on his feet” and show more “discipline”, it was plain to see what talent is available to be tapped, by coaches and – most importantly, if his career is to go anywhere – the player himself.

Surely, all things considered, it’s better to keep aiming that way, and see if a maverick can be moulded, instead of allowing him to feel isolated or, worse, terminally disillusioned here, which would make us all a little smaller.