Nicky Adams: serial League Two promotion winner. Mike Jones: League One midfielder by history and repute. Jamie Devitt: the fourth tier's assists king two seasons back. Shaun Miller: capable of 19 and 16-goal campaigns. Clint Hill: a career of great substance, mostly at higher levels.

Even to the untrained eye this is a Carlisle United squad with ability and years of form. Making a unit out of several good parts is a fine art but still: these players should not be 16th in the basement division and it is high time the Blues lifted their sights.

At Colchester today they make their latest attempt at inching away from the wrong part of the table. Their position does not yet scream crisis but nor does it reflect well on the first dozen games.

To be blunt, Carlisle ought to be better, need to be better. Better than won four, drawn two, lost six. Better than a side that is logjammed when it comes to scoring at home. Better, injuries and suspensions allowing, as a consistent force.

And better, yes, based on what they have spent - a hot topic in the last eight days. Keith Curle believes "success" this season would be "overachieving" based on budget. Carlisle have the realistic financial power of a mid-table club, the manager added last weekend, speaking at a time when the Blues were 14th.

The old debate duly reignited about whether this was a) true, b) the best message to send to supporters and c) what, in particular, was Curle's motivation for saying what he did, when he did.

There must be a c) to follow b), since on its own it was no sales pitch. United's manager is not averse to making headlines through the impact and timing of a particular statement and it's unlikely those words left his mouth without prior thought.

Some interpreted last Friday's comment as a shot across the board's bows. Others felt it was an attempt at self-preservation during tricky times. A reminder to the "stakeholders" of a dwindling contract was another theory while those most loyally behind Curle felt he was simply offering a spoonful of realism.

Take your pick. Then there was the usual task of weighing the manager's remarks with recent comments from directors who said, on a BBC Cumbria fans' forum, that United's budget ought to place them slightly higher, between eighth and 10th.

Curle, it has often been pointed out, includes more things in his calculations than mere player spending. Nigel Clibbens, the chief executive, acknowledged this when we spoke in June. Transport, preparation, coaching staff, other costs associated with running a football department: these were the areas, he agreed, that Curle had factored in.

When it comes to the numbers cited by the board, and which are submitted to the EFL at regular intervals, it is simply on players. In this, Clibbens said United came around "seventh or eighth" in 2015/16. By the end of August 2016 they were the ninth-largest spenders overall; by February this year, they were judged to be sixth.

From what Curle said, then, one is invited to assume that United had not invested at the same levels on the additional things the manager desires to make the team successful.

Clibbens, though, also said this: "Do we think we as a club have overperformed given the amount of money that's been allocated to the football department? That's one of the fundamental questions you review at the end of the season. The simple answer is we think we've done in line with what we thought we'd do, which is good."

In other words, those with the purse-strings felt sixth was par for 2016/17.

It may well be that Curle has had less to spend this time around, but we can still recognise that league tables based on cash should only count for so much, and that it is still fair to expect skill and judgement to have some reflection in the 24-team bunch.

Good money can be spent badly, small resources can be applied well. Those doing the spending can be measured on how they do it, and those on whom it is spent have their own responsibilities too.

Instead of overachievement, how about the simpler word "achievement" to describe what a positive Blues campaign would look like? Carlisle rising into the promotion race would be achievement of sorts. Carlisle reaching League One: definite achievement.

But overachievement? Perhaps that term should be spared for those who truly exceed what is realistically possible - Leicester City lifting the Premier League, Eibar reaching La Liga, Wales in the Euro semi-finals, Scotland narrowly missing World Cup qualification despite the national genetic disadvantages that beset poor Gordon Strachan.

A Carlisle squad of Adams, Jones, Devitt and the rest going up against Mansfield, Luton, Notts County and Exeter and ending sixth or better? For sure it would be good. But beyond what supporters should hope for? Beyond where their sights should be?

That would be a limited outlook, even if it's not difficult to identify one or two of the things they are missing right now, like a reliable No9 to make the most of the sort of service Adams was offering against Exeter.

Such a person can be difficult to pinpoint, if you can't afford one that's oven-ready (Curle, who said Danny Hylton and Jayden Stockley had been out of his financial reach in past summers, has now taken another punt on Steven Rigg). And you perhaps won't find alchemy every season. If the Midas recruitment of Paul Simpson from 2003-6 was routinely possible, everyone would be doing it.

But that applies across the board, not just at Brunton Park, and the abiding frustration with Carlisle right now is not so much what they don't have, but what they do: still a cluster of players many others at this level would like to own (and if you don't believe that, listen to Steve Evans any time Adams' name is mentioned).

If they stay at their current position or go lower, there is no doubt that it will be underachievement. Nothing can be promised in a volatile game - and cash will always have its part in the conversation - but all things considered Carlisle's bar still ought to be higher, and it is time all concerned found a way to reach it and raise it again.