Hopefully, Aaron Hayden is just the beginning. In a totally perfect world Carlisle United will line up on August 10 with a team full of former Blues players.

Let’s see, now. In goal, shock summer signing Keiren Westwood rolls it out to Hayden, who plays it to Joel Senior on the right. A crossfield ball puts Omari Patrick on the attack and when Gary Madine heads home, Bromley are comprehensively beaten and Simmo’s heroes are off and running in League Two.

On the bench, George McVitie adjusts his studs and applies another layer of dubbin to his boots. Malcolm Poskett twirls his moustache, waiting for the call. Nacho Novo heads out to warm up and falls over.

In our dreams. Or in yours, at least, not mine. The point about being obsessed with former players is that it’s only an accusation that is levelled, seldom admitted.

As such, there’s a world of supporters out there ready to complain about an apparently incessant recycling of old names. A sub-group will then attack any sign of passing interest in someone who’s worn the blue shirt before. Any mention of Michael Kelly or Offrande Zanzala is taken to be a fully costed proposal for United re-signing them at any cost.

Well, we can make a few points here. One is that, as an old university friend once said, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy obsession (he was talking about women, not footballers, but the point stands).

The other is the absolutely categorical truth that many of those dismissive of interest in former players secretly like to be up to their necks in nostalgia themselves. I’ve always felt the best way to prove your total disinterest in a subject is possibly not to go on Facebook and aggressively declare that you don’t care about something.

News and Star: Hayden, who played for United from 2019 to 2021, has rejoined from WrexhamHayden, who played for United from 2019 to 2021, has rejoined from Wrexham (Image: Stuart Walker)

THIS IS NOT NEWS, someone writes beneath the seventh Love Island-related article they’ve perused that week. When it comes to stories about former players, the readership data in the News & Star’s system tells a profound tale.

People like reading them. No, people love reading them, more than many subjects. And that’s ok. That’s fine. Maybe, in the end, there is a middle ground, a good distance away from the poles of unhealthy obsession and forced indifference.

Maybe it’s acceptable to have followed Carlisle United for some or many years and therefore to have a packed and encyclopaedic memory of those – great, ordinary, utterly obscure – who’ve represented the club in all that time.

Maybe, because United is your passion, your cause and your life’s touchstone, everything to do with it engrosses you more than nearly anything else, even the minor things.

Maybe, in that case, as much as the present and future may be interesting and exciting, there is still an unstoppable inclination to lean to the past, in whatever form that past appears.

Isn’t that, on some level, what makes us fans? Isn’t it not the memory of the great and the good, the Wallings and the Reeveses, but also the Kenny Lowes and Rob Peterses?

Isn’t it the Novos and the Lucas Dawsons as well as the Millers and the Zokos? Isn’t it the Kenny Wilsons as well as the Ray Trains? Isn’t it the one-game wonders as much as those of several hundred appearances?

Following clubs is about light and shade, nuance and hidden depth, semi-forgotten corners as well as the prominent and the glorious. It’s also about clinging onto anything whatsoever that connects you to United and your knowledge of it.

If that means spending an inordinate amount of time wondering where Joe Riley will go next after being released by Walsall, then who has the right to tell you that’s not a perfectly reasonable and nourishing pastime?

Now, there is of course a difference between curiosity towards ex-Blues and feeling United should go out and recruit as many of them as they can. Personally I think those who are of the latter inclination are in a much smaller minority than some seem to think.

At the same time, why forcibly shut that avenue down? If Carlisle had always turned away from former players, dismissed the idea of signing them as an uncreative approach, we would not have had fruitful second spells from individuals such as Ivor Broadis, Hugh McIlmoyle, George McVitie, Mike McCartney, Pop Robson, Joe Garner, Dave McKellar and Ian Stevens.

We wouldn’t have had Patrick’s goal at Wembley. We wouldn’t now have the hopeful signing of Hayden, someone who, back from Wrexham, says he feels like he’s “home”.

That sentiment might not count for everything when League Two’s back under way. But it might count for something: a feel for United, a strong affection for the place, which carried Hayden back up the M6 (along with the presumably favourable deal the Blues offered).

Elsewhere in the fourth tier there is a relatively young attacking full-back who might be thought to tick a potential box for United.

He’s played the majority of his club’s games, was named their player of the season and is available on a free. If he wasn’t called Joel Senior, and if he hadn’t been released by the Blues a year before, wouldn’t we be encouraged if he was linked with the club this summer?

News and Star: Joel Senior is back available after turning down a new deal at MorecambeJoel Senior is back available after turning down a new deal at Morecambe (Image: PA)

There should be no shame, then, in looking that way, even as United cast their net wider. Managerially, too, Carlisle’s greatest bosses have tended to be those who’ve come back: Ashman, Stokoe, Simpson.

And nor, despite what some believe, is all this a modern phenomenon: a product of social media, or a flagging traditional media’s desperation for clicks by trotting out any old familiar name.

In the course of research recently I was leafing through old copies of the Evening News & Star from May 1974: the weeks after United were promoted to the First Division 50 years back. On one of those days the lead Carlisle article was not about that incredible prospect, but a player (Frank Sharp) who’d not played for the Blues in five years and had just moved from one unrelated club to another.

Even at the midpoint of United’s Football League history, the past was being clung to, determinedly obsessed over. Good.