Surrey seeking titles
Surrey coach Alan Butcher insists his squad are hungrier than ever to pick up some silverware after enduring a frustrating trophy-less season last year.
Surrey were one of the dominant forces in county cricket between 1998 and 2003 but have been forced to deal with a significant overhaul of personnel in recent seasons.
And after not tasting success since the modest achievement of winning the LV Division Two title in 2006, Butcher believes the current crop are desperate to replicate the efforts of their predecessors at The Brit Oval.
The days of Surrey being able to call upon 11 internationals may be at an end but Butcher currently presides over a squad comprising an exciting mix of established veterans and youthful tyros.
It is a combination he believes could pay dividends this year.
"We have to go out expecting to win every game we play. That's possibly an unrealistic aim but we'll be setting out for that," Butcher said.
"We want to play good cricket but we are very aware of what we want to achieve as a group.
"This group of players wants to make its mark at The Oval, as the last generation did.
"Some of the older ones want to recapture that and the younger ones want to get a taste of it for themselves."
The summer of 2007 looks destined to go down as something of a missed opportunity for Surrey fans, with defeats at crucial junctures having put paid to their hopes in both long and short forms of the game.
But for Butcher, the fact that his side were so close to making their mark is cause for optimism.
"In each competition we got ourselves into situations we should have won from, we had batsman set in key games and then lost wickets.
"That's something we need to address but we played a lot of good cricket last year. We could have feasibly got to the Twenty20 finals day, reached the semi-final of the Friends Provident Trophy and won promotion from Division Two in the Pro40.
"And given our results towards the end of the season, I think if we'd have played even averagely in the first half of the year we'd have been in with a very good chance.
"It's important we work on that and ensure we don't start as slowly again."
Key to their chances this year will once again be the form of elder statesmen such as former England pair Mark Ramprakash and Butcher's son, team captain Mark.
With wicketkeeper-batsman Jonathan Batty also in place and former Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq due to continue his successful stint in county cricket, Butcher knows he has a bedrock of match-winners who are unlikely to be summoned for international duty in the middle of the campaign.
Calls for Ramprakash's reintroduction to the England set-up reached fever-pitch over the winter and it seems baffling that the ever-reliable Batty has not been tried as Peter Moores continues to puzzle over the wicketkeeping position.
And while Butcher believes his players may have been short-changed by the national selectors in recent years, he concedes it is a boon to Surrey's domestic ambitions.
"I couldn't possibly say it was a bad thing to have a batsman like Ramprakash who has averaged 100 in the last two seasons available all year and to have two quality batsmen like him and Mark (Butcher) giving us stability in the middle order.
"I'm also surprised Jonathan has never been given an opportunity - any opportunity - with England or even England Lions.
"He gets runs at the top of the order, he's kept to two of the best spinners in the game and in one-day cricket he can bat anywhere. I think he has every right to feel disappointed about that.
"But I suppose I'd be lying if I said it wasn't good for us that they're not with England."
Ramprakash, meanwhile, is integral to Surrey's chances of success.
Last season the 38-year-old scored 2,026 championship runs, including 10 hundreds, at 101.3 and came fourth in the PCA's most valued player rankings.
Explaining his star asset's late-career flourish, Butcher said: "Ramps must now feel there's nothing more he can do to make England pick him.
"I think both technically and mentally he is better now than he has been at any stage of his career. As a person he is more at ease with himself and as a cricketer too.
"A couple of years ago he did a management course and I think he learned a lot about himself.
"It has helped him be relaxed and enjoy his game more. He's always been well regarded but I think technically he has never been better."