AS we approach the new cricket season, there is a real sense of optimism at New Road.

A feeling that Worcestershire could surprise a few people in LV= County Championship Division One.

Twelve months ago, the County’s chances of making their mark in Division Two looked bleak in the wake of Alan Richardson’s retirement.

I, for one, had virtually written them off and feared for the campaign ahead. How wrong I was.

Not only did they shrug off the loss of their main bowler, the new blend of youth and experience well and truly made their mark by winning promotion.

It was a season few outside the New Road inner sanctum thought possible but it was a campaign that kept on giving, culminating with Jack Shantry’s heroics against Surrey to cement their position as runners-up.

Now, 12 months on from the luke-warm sentiment that greeted the 2014 campaign, the new season cannot start soon enough for Worcestershire and their supporters.

Sunday’s opener against defending champions Yorkshire should give us a decent idea of what to expect over the next few months from Steve Rhodes’ side.

But, crucially, Worcestershire have nothing to fear. Indeed, they have a group of players champing at the bit to prove themselves against the best the English game has to offer.

Along with Shantry, the likes of Joe Leach, Ben Cox, Charlie Morris and Richard Oliver all came of age last season and have earned the chance to play in Division One.

They will have also seen Moeen Ali progress through the ranks at New Road to become an England regular and see no reason why they can’t follow in his footsteps.

There has to be a feeling of excitement among fans at the prospect of this bunch, under the steady guidance of skipper Daryl Mitchell, having the opportunity to realise their potential.