By Rich Jones
Glamorgan County Cricket Club will enter the 2016 season in a period of transition with a new head coach at the helm.
Legendary off-spinner Robert Croft, who spent 23 seasons playing for the club before his retirement in 2012, takes over from Toby Radford at the SWALEC Stadium.
Croft has a workmanlike team at his disposal, who will look to unlock their potential and show progression from their solid, yet unspectacular, 2015 campaign.
Glamorgan finished fourth in the County Championship Division Two last year and, disappointingly, failed to progress in either the T20 Blast or the Royal London One Day Cup.
Despite their struggles in the shorter formats, the Welsh side undoubtedly made positive strides in the four-day game- progress that they will be keen to continue in the forthcoming season.
With just one promotion place up for grabs as part of a restructuring of the County Championship, they will have little margin for error if they are to move up to the top flight.
However, the departures of powerhouse pair Surrey and Lancashire following their promotions last season should give them plenty of encouragement that they can be in the mix.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Australian paceman Shaun Tait for the T20 Blast will surely bring a new wave of enthusiasm heading into the showpiece competition, which gets underway in May.
Furthermore, the return of South African star Jacques Rudolph as overseas player and captain gives them the benefit of an experienced, seasoned performer in all formats of the game.
Rudolph is joined by veteran trio Graham Wagg, Dean Cosker and Michael Hogan, who can all be relied upon to provide consistency and solidity in the side whilst offering plenty of assistance to the younger players.
On the subject of young players, there are perhaps few more exciting talents emerging at this moment in time than Welsh teenager Aneurin Donald.
The 19-year-old batsman showed flashes of his undoubted potential in 2015 and will be looking to hold down a first-team place across all formats, where his youthful exuberance and natural ball striking ability could make him a potential match-winner.
Young spinner Andrew Salter is also highly-rated at the club, whilst Scottish youngster Ruaidhri Smith will be hungry to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015.
There has been little activity over the winter in terms of incomings or outgoings at the SWALEC, but they seem to have made some useful acquisitions.
Young seam bowler Harry Podmore is an interesting loan signing from Middlesex and could have a big part to play.
However, Dutch paceman Timm van der Gugten, who arrives with a wealth of domestic experience in Australia and international experience with the Netherlands, has the potential to be the new-ball threat they crave.
He arrives highly-rated despite limited first-class experience, and if he gets to grips with the British conditions he could prove to be one of the signings of the summer.
Craig Meschede has made his move permanent after spending 2015 on loan from Somerset, and he offers plenty of ability across all formats with both bat and ball. Alongside fellow South African-born Kolpak player Colin Ingram, the pair will provide the backbone of Glamorgan’s power hitting in limited-overs games.
Overall, this is most likely to be a year of consolidation for Glamorgan as they adapt to a new management structure and look to bring through their young players.
However, a top-half finish in the County Championship, with the potential for a promotion push, should be the aim whilst progression in at least one of the limited overs competitions must be on the agenda.
If Croft can take to his new head coaching role well and bring out the best in some of their young talent, then the 2016 season could well be the start of a promising run for Glamorgan.