The sun was out at Brunton Park yesterday. The pitch was looking greener as the first of the club's summer signings, plus a handful of the established faces, filed down the tunnel to talk to the media.

Later, Keith Curle and Nigel Clibbens sat down to talk, both men speaking without any sense of outward tension about where Carlisle United have been and where they may go next.

For Curle, it was his first lengthy interview since he left a stir in Exeter in the hour of United's play-off defeat. In May, he had called for "extra investment" to be directed towards United's football department - even suggesting that, if the environment was no longer to his taste, he might walk.

There was no hint of that dramatic message yesterday, the fourth day of pre-season training. Even as chief executive Clibbens said the manager's budget was "broadly the same" as last summer's, Curle seemed settled and eager to push on with his work.

Whatever reassurances have been sought and given behind closed doors, there was at least a United front. Carlisle have signed three players and are about to add a fourth, and there was a pragmatic tone from the manager when asked how he felt he could build the Blues further than last season's top-six finish.

"The club is doing everything it can to direct revenue and finances in my direction," Curle said.

"We won't be able to compete with people buying players for a quarter of a million quid, like Luton - we haven't got that sort of finances.

"We can't go out and sign 14 players and put them all on top League Two money like a Mansfield. We can't offer extortionate signing-on fees to centre-forwards like a Lincoln have done, and paying League One wages.

"But we've got a competitive budget and a changing room that's got a competitive element of good players who can play at a high level.

"We are going to be thin on numbers, so we need to make sure our games and training programme is tailored towards getting our key personnel out on the pitch on a regular basis, keeping them fit, getting them stronger and faster and enjoying their football."

Until the arrival of Jack Bonham, Kelvin Etuhu and Hallam Hope, there was disquiet among many fans about the quiet close-season the Blues were spending.

Asked about this approach, Curle's explanation was that the busier summer of 2016 was designed to get key players in place, while this one is more about "fine-tuning".

In other words, the likes of Nicky Adams and Mike Jones are the bedrock of the Carlisle squad and there is not the same need for radical transfer business.

At the same time, more new faces are plainly needed. They will come, Curle stressed. On the tumbleweed June weeks, he said: "I'm aware of the [supporters'] anxiety, but the foundations and pillars were put in last season very early, which means it hasn't had to be wholesale changes this year.

"We haven't had to bring in 10-11 players to get a spine of the team. The foundations are in place. We were very close to bringing in players in the early part of pre-season, but I'm very pleased with the players we've got in. They have added dynamics we thought we were missing, and now it's a few finishing touches that we're looking to bring in."

It is plain that United were priced out of certain targets by Mansfield. The reference to Lincoln, meanwhile, may imply United were keen on the centre-forward Matt Green.

Even so, Bonham, Etuhu and Hope were targets from the outset, once the dust settled from the Exeter defeat. Carlisle got them and Curle is pleased to have them.

Bonham, the 23-year-old Brentford loan goalkeeper, appealed because of his size and presence as well as his distribution. "The one thing that's missing from his profile is game-time," Curle said.

"He needs to be tested. I said to him, 'You learn about goalkeepers when they make mistakes'.

"He's gonna make mistakes. All footballers will. We're not going to openly encourage them but we're not going to criticise anyone for making them.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for him. It's a chance to come out, gain a profile and personality, and he'll get the backing of the players in the changing room and also the supporters."

Bonham is the initial replacement for Mark Gillespie, the long-serving former No1 now at Walsall. While Gillespie wanted to test himself in a higher division, Curle also said there was "a difference" in the financial package Gillespie was seeking compared with what United wanted to pay.

In midfield, meanwhile, the powerful-looking Etuhu is challenged to earn a place in a competitive midfield. "He's got good physical presence, good mentality and work ethic," Curle said. "I need to get a consistent run of training and games into Kelvin, get him into the late 30s-early 40s in games played this season.

"The environment he's coming into, he needs to be at the top of his game if he is to get selected. He won't walk into this team."

Curle, famously, said he pursued Hope harder than his former wife or current girlfriend, and so must be delighted to see the frontman in a Blues training kit in these early July days.

He reaffirmed that he sees the former Bury man as a centre-forward, having used him in the "graveyard shift" on the left in his 2015/16 loan spell.

Hope's "hunger and determination" were highlighted by the manager. "At times he will close the whole back four down on his own, very Ian Rush-esque," Curle added. "We've seen it in training already. You can play with one up front in Hallam, because he does the work of two. In a team with two up front, he and a partner will cause havoc."

Curle made sure he did not, though, give the impression of being completely settled and complacent with what he has.

Asked about the brief summer rumour linking him with Aberdeen, Curle confirmed there had been no mention from United of any approach, but also used the question to reiterate his ambition to manage at the top, to gain promotions with Carlisle that will catch the eye. "I want to get interest," he said.

Whether that ambition will include a new contract at Brunton Park soon was another moot point. Clibbens did his best to let those deliveries from BBC Radio Cumbria 's James Phillips pass his off-stump, saying only that the club were happy with Curle and wanted him to continue, and that the matter would be looked at "in due course".

Clibbens, who pointed out that the manager has a year remaining on his current terms, added that "private" thoughts on the subject would not be aired through the media - and that, in any case, contracts count for little if a suitor is appealing enough.

Curle, meanwhile, did not pretend that he would ever be at ease with all that he has at United when there is so much climbing that the Blues can still do.

Asked if he was satisfied United could challenge with the resources he has been given, he said: "Yeah. As a starting point.

"But part of my job, on behalf of supporters, my staff and the changing room, is that I go and bang on doors and keep wanting more.

"I bug the life out of the football club and its stakeholders. I'm always pushing boundaries, giving a nudge and a dig.

"But it's a good bugbear. If I stop asking, if I stop being a driving force for progress, the club will not continue to improve.

"When there is no money to spend, there is no money to spend. But I still ask."

As ever, it will be the answers provided on the pitch that will be most revealing.