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FOR the fourth instalment of our pre-season fan panel, we found out the thoughts of Paul Hopkins.

Paul is a communications officer from Taunton and a keen Somerset supporter - you can follow him on Twitter here.

What shape do you think Somerset are in ahead of the new season – are you optimistic?

We have performed really well in the pre-season matches with most players in the squad contributing in some form or other. As long as we can keep the nucleus of the squad fit then there’s no reason we can’t challenge on at least the County Championship and One Day Cup fronts. I’m not sure that we have enough depth or the right players in the T20 squad though and could struggle again.

The appointment of Tom Abell as captain - the right move?

Having met Tom at a charity event just before Christmas it’s clear that he has a very sensible head on his young shoulders. He has a presence about him and I think that can only get stronger. It’s also good that he has other leaders in the team with great experience who can help him out. I’d like to think he will be an innovative captain and will try new things.

What are your thoughts on Somerset’s new signings?

Steven Davies is an outstanding signing. He’s one of those players who can play to a high standard in all three formats of the game and he clearly has hit the ground running in pre-season. He solves the wicketkeeper-batsman problem that we have had since Kieswetter’s unfortunate retirement. Dean Elgar is another superb signing – a much better player now than during his first spell with us. My only worry is that if he’s not around for a lot of the summer things could become disjointed.

Are there any areas of the side you feel should have been strengthened further?

If we are looking to compete seriously in T20 I think we need to sign a top overseas player who can play the whole tournament rather than a bit part. We look very strong in the County Championship – certainly a top three team and following the signing of Davies I can’t think of anything more we could do. Perhaps we need a more economical bowler in the short format, although Trego or Allenby could fit that bill.

Which young player(s) do you think can break through and play a part this season?

I’d like to see the Overtons really kick on this year and strive towards a full England cap by the end of the season. George Bartlett looks good, though I think his game time will be limited. I’d like to see Dom Bess continue his rise, particularly as he could be a very handy backup for Jack Leach should he get an England call-up.

What would be your XI for the first match of the season against Essex?

Trescothick, Abell, Elgar, Hildreth, S Davies, Allenby, Trego, C Overton, Gregory, J Overton, Leach

Predictions:

Where will Somerset finish in the County Championship?

Third

Which team will win the County Championship?

Yorkshire

Which player will score the most Championship runs for Somerset?

Trescothick

Which player will score the most Championship runs overall?

Gary Balance (Yorkshire)

Which player will take the most Championship wickets for Somerset?

Craig Overton

Which player will take the most Championship wickets overall?

Mark Footitt (Surrey)

Thank you to Paul for his time - if you missed our other fan panels, here are the thoughts of Matt Roller, Dan Kingdom and Sam Trego.

Somerset begin their 2017 County Championship campaign against Essex at the Cooper Associates County Ground tomorrow (Good Friday) - join us for over-by-over coverage of day one and reports throughout the weekend.

You could be there on day two - simply 'like' our new Somerset CCC Facebook page to win a pair of tickets for Saturday's play. Click here to find out more.