THE circumstances may have been very different, but there was an air of déjà vu as Somerset’s players circled the Cooper Associates County Ground taking in the appreciation of their supporters at the end of another season.

In September 2016, they were celebrating a victory over Nottinghamshire which put Somerset temporarily top of the table as they sought a first ever County Championship title, while a year on simply staying in the division was cause enough for a similarly jubilant reaction.

While there can be no doubt Somerset have gone backwards this season, when placed in the context of a difficult campaign the level of celebration was understandable. 

They looked doomed going into September, with a proud record as the longest-serving side in Division One under threat until three wins in four games turned the tide and secured another season dining at the top table.

It is easy to forget how much optimism was abound back in April when the campaign got underway. Having come so close the previous summer, all the talk was of ‘going one better’ and a perfect pre-season was seen as further evidence of the side’s capability to mount another title challenge.

As it transpired, seeing off Oxford University and a youthful Lancashire outfit counted for little when, by the end of April, Somerset had lost each of their opening two Championship matches and sat bottom of the table.

The winless run continued until early July, with the light amid a gloomy first half of the season provided by Marcus Trescothick’s record-breaking 50th Somerset century, a remarkable achievement and testament to the former England opener’s relentless enthusiasm and love of the game that still burns bright after all these years.

A change of captain brought an overdue change of fortunes in Scarborough, with Tom Abell dropped after a lean start to life in the hotseat.

A pair under the lights at Hampshire had proved to be the nadir as the popular 23-year-old, who began the season looking weighed down by the responsibility thrust upon his shoulders, recorded 11 single figure scores in his first 14 First Class innings as captain. It is to Abell’s eternal credit that he picked himself up, dusted himself down and led the charge to safety later in the season.

The baffling scheduling of the County Championship season meant Somerset would play just one match between the victory at Yorkshire – which was wrapped up on July 6 – and the start of September.

This being Somerset, though, the intervening period was far from dull. A vastly improved T20 campaign was halfway through when it was announced that Adam Hose, who had established himself in all formats, was leaving for Warwickshire with immediate effect.

The move divided opinion, with some supporters blaming the player and others ruing the club’s inability to secure the future of a promising, versatile young cricketer. The truth, as so often, was somewhere in the middle, but Hose’s brutal 74 on his Birmingham Bears debut was a reminder of what Somerset had lost.

Hose’s departure and the lack of an overseas replacement for the excellent Dean Elgar meant Abell was back in the side for the visit of Surrey in early August.

The recalled captain showed why Somerset had invested so much faith in him in the first place with an elegant 96 as he joined forces with centurion Steve Davies, who also recovered from a nightmare start to display his class in the run-in, in a draw in Taunton.

Somerset’s return to form was not instant, by any means, and a dismal collapse against champions Essex left them staring relegation in the face going into the final month of the season.

They needed a response and, after an Abell rallying cry encouraging the players to express themselves, they got one at Edgbaston as Warwickshire were put to the sword.

Spin twins Jack Leach and Dom Bess then turned the clock back as, either side of a blip at The Oval, Somerset picked up the two home wins they needed to ensure a tough season ended with smiles on faces and Division One safety secured.

Or was it? Having seen complaints about the pitch fall on deaf ears – Middlesex arrived in Taunton ready to complain and proceeded to do so consistently over the next four days – the 2016 champions have appealed an earlier points deduction and, at the time of writing, relegation issues may yet be decided in boardrooms rather than on the field.

Whatever the decision, next year will be very different for Somerset. New CEO Lee Cooper has wasted no time in stamping his authority and a structural review has seen Matthew Maynard replaced by Jason Kerr - who takes the head coach role - and the returning Andy Hurry, who will be the director of cricket.

One-day skipper Jim Allenby is also heading out the exit door, with the 35-year-old’s leadership skills - which helped Somerset to the knockout stages in both the Royal London One-Day Cup and the NatWest T20 Blast - not enough to compensate for a lack of top order runs.

Lewis Gregory, who took the reins for the T20 quarter-final at Trent Bridge, is a likely candidate for the vacancy as limited overs leader, while Abell looks set to carry on as four-day captain following his upturn in fortunes.

Maynard’s tenure, meanwhile, like many before him, will be looked back on as a case of ‘what might have been’, and it is up to the new regime to bring the best out of a batting line-up that failed to fire all too often in 2017.

A number three batsman and a top class overseas player are likely to be on the new duo’s to-do list, while they will also be tasked with harnessing the talents of Craig Overton, whose superb campaign earned him an Ashes call-up, and Jack Leach, who deserved the opportunity to join his teammate down under.

Leach’s time will come, and it may not be too long until he and Overton are lining up in the same England side, though both will have to sustain their performances in a Somerset shirt for that ambition to become a reality.

If they do just that, the batsmen find consistency and shrewd additions are made, there are reasons to believe next season may not require such a dramatic revival.

Somerset gained a reputation as bridesmaids during Hurry’s previous tenure due to regular runners-up finishes - the returning coach will be eager to deliver trophies this time around.