COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club’s preparations for the new season are in full swing.

And the club’s Director of Cricket Julian Russell says the Castle Park are relishing the prospect of stepping up to the Shepherd Neame Essex League top-flight.

The newly-promoted premier division side are back in training ahead of the new season, which begins with a trip to play Chelmsford on May 9.

And after winning the division one title in style last season, club stalwart Russell is already looking forward to the campaign ahead.

Russell said: “We’ve taken stock of what was a very successful season for us last year and have been able to reflect on things.

“We’ve been working with the players in terms of what we’re looking to achieve in the coming season.

“There’s always room for improvement and the feeling we had at the end of last season was that we’ve set the bar in terms of where we want to get to.

“We’ve been mentally preparing for the season ahead in a higher division, as well as the fitness work both individually and as a team.

“For all of us, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve played at this level of cricket.

“We’re all really looking forward to the challenge but at the same time, we know that it’ll be a step up.

“There’s more than enough talent and it will come down to whether we can maintain a confident, positive feeling within the group, to get the best out of the young players.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is seeing the talented young players take the next step.

“I think we play three of the four top sides in the first month and that gives us even more motivation to hit the ground running, as a team coming up to the division.”

Colchester are planning for the new season with the same squad that performed so well in division one, last season.

They will be skippered again by Kiwi Darren Eckford, with his compatriot and player-coach Jonny Bassett-Graham also on board for another year at Castle Park.

“We’re very happy with the squad that we had last season,” added long-serving Russell.

“We’ve focused our efforts on keeping the players together and having an extension of the plan that took us to the title.

“We’re confident that we’ll hold onto the players that did so well for us, last year.

“There may be one or two additions from the University of Essex, something that’s worked very well for us over the last couple of years.

“It could be that students play for us in the first few weeks of the season and end up playing for us for the rest of the summer.”

Colchester are currently preparing for the new season, with training at Holmwood House.

Anyone interested in linking up with them in their pre-season preparations should contact Director of Cricket Julian Russell at