Well, here we are, on the cusp of a new year.
2016 wasn't a great one, especially for a Derbyshire cricket fan. There were days in the sun, when things appeared to be coming together, but far too many when we were simply not at the races. Bottom place in the county championship doesn't lie and while there were performances that hinted at untapped potential in 20 and 50-over cricket, inconsistency remains the greatest problem.
The talent is there and perhaps the new coaching model, where players take greater responsibility and are assisted by Steve Stubbings to develop their own games, may be the one that works. Goodness knows, we have tried most other things...
And yet...the standard of winter recruitment has been better and the players released have been those who perhaps most frustrated from a consistency perspective. We all knew what Wes Durston, Chesney Hughes and Neil Broom could do, but producing it on a regular basis was, at least latterly, the issue. I am sure we all wish them well in their future endeavours, but in their place come players with a track record of consistency and crucial experience.
Gary Wilson, Imran Tahir, Jeevan Mendis and Hardus Viljoen add a lot to the mix and IF they perform to their usual standard, one built up over any years of performance, 2017 should be much better. Luck, especially with injuries, plays a part for any sportsman, but that apart, the players named above surely have to enhance the prospects of a brighter 2017?
The same goes for Luis Reece, a player of unquestionable talent who now has the opportunity to become a solid, performing county cricketer that was denied him at Lancashire. Reece, Thakor and Hughes give Derbyshire a trio of talented all-rounders who lengthen the batting and give greater bowling options.
We need our quartet of young seam bowlers to come to the fore too. I expect to see at least one from Will Davis, Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Greg Cork make major strides forward in 2017, while Matt Critchley should work with Mendis and Tahir and hone the skills that could make him a future international bowler. Just as long as we don't mess around with his action too much, which wrecked the career (for now) of Tom Knight.
It is a big year for Wayne Madsen, with a testimonial year to go alongside a new baby. Wayne has been the focal point of our batting for the past few seasons and while the form of some players can dip during benefit years, others thrive on the pressure and responsibility. If Wayne produces to his normal high standard and gets the support of the rest of the batting line up, next September promises to be more mellow than this year was.
There's a lot to look forward to, including a likely replacement for Neil Broom and the T20 choice of John Wright, all this before the action starts.
May your 2017 be everything you hope for and I look forward to seeing you down in Derby and Chesterfield over the summer months, as I celebrate my fiftieth summer as a Derbyshire supporter.
And hearing from you, of course!
Enjoy your festivities tonight.