Lancashire’s performances in 2016 really split opinion around Emirates Old Trafford, but captain Steven Croft is confident that everyone will see this summer as a success come late September.
There was the glass half full view that the club secured their immediate future in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship and blooded a handful of youngsters, most notably Haseeb Hameed and Liam Livingstone.
Then, there was the glass half empty view, largely from the members, that they slipped badly in four-day cricket after an excellent start and only avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth.
Failure to qualify from the group stages of both limited overs competition was something everyone could agree on. “It was poor,” admitted Croft. But, after a winter of change for the Red Rose, the skipper is full of optimism for the campaign ahead.
There is a new first XI coach in charge in the form of Glen Chapple following the return of Ashley Giles to Warwickshire, while Ryan McLaren, Junaid Khan (both overseas) and Shiv Chanderpaul and Dane Vilas have all arrived to boost the squad.
Another T20 overseas icon is also due to arrive for the Blast in the not too distant future. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” said Croft of the winter months. “There’s been a change in coach, and hopefully it’s for the good of the club. I’m sure it will be.
“It was Chappie’s first year last year without playing, and he probably learnt a lot. Personally, I think he really grew as a coach. Once Ashley left, it was the right decision to give it to Glen.
“I thought last year was a big learning curve. We had quite a young squad, and we did well at times. At the back end we struggled, but we lost a lot of senior players and experience. Without making too many excuses, that was probably the reason we didn’t get the results we wanted.
“On the flip side, it gave experience to those youngsters who will be in a better position this year with a few more senior heads around.”
Lancashire start the season against newly promoted Essex at Chelmsford on April 7, a clash which is likely to see Hameed, Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson all feature. It will be the beginning of a hugely competitive campaign.
“You look at the teams in the Championship and anyone could win it,” said Croft, currently in Dubai on the club’s pre-season tour. “It’s the same at the other end. You have to get some momentum through wins early doors.
“That obviously helped us last year to stay up given we struggled at the back end. We did lose a few players mid season, but excuses aside we probably lost that winning feeling we’d had just a few months before. It was frustrating.
“Building on last year and climbing up the Championship table would be a positive for us. We don’t want to go into survival mode, which we did towards the back end of last year. We started off really well, and we need to keep that intent.
“White ball, we massively underperformed. In T20, the main thing is to get out of that group. Once you do that, momentum can take you straight to the cup.
“In 50 overs, it’s something we’ve underperformed in for the last few years actually. I’d love to get to a Lord’s final, and I think the rest of the lads need to think that as well - how big it is to play at Lord’s in a one-day final.
“You only have to speak to the coaching team, Chappie, Gary Yates and Mark Chilton, about how good those days can be. We want to try and win everything. I know it’s almost impossible to do, but you have to approach every tournament as if you want to win it.”