FORMER Lancashire captain Tom Smith said the Red Rose county would aim to avoid an immediate return to the second tier of the County Championship - by targeting this year's Division One title.

Since winning the title in 2011 Lancashire have turned into a yo-yo side, twice being relegated only to respond with promotion the following year.

Expectations are higher this year with Ashley Giles in charge at Old Trafford, and they are buoyed by the return of Chorley's Smith, who quit the captaincy after just one game last year to focus on a return to fitness from a back injury which has kept him sidelined since April.

“It’s going to be tough because when you look at the league, there’s a lot of strong teams,” he said. “It’s a very competitive league. Sussex got relegated this year, and look at the players in their team. You wouldn’t they’d get relegated. But all credit to Hampshire for the last day of the season.

“We know that if you put runs on the board, you won’t lose games. At least you draw and potentially you can push for the win.

“As Ashley Giles has said, it’s about managing expectations at the start of the season and finding a way to put consistent performances together and stay in Division One.

“We will set out with the aim to win and we have every intention to push for the Division One title. That brings a positive attitude. As long as we put consistent performances together, I think we’ll go a long way towards breaking this yo-yo thing we’ve had over the last few years.”

Smith's injury meant he missed the chance to captain the Red Rose in what proved a fruitful season, as they finished behind Surrey in County Championship Division Two but won the NatWest Blast T20 competition on finals day at Edgbaston.

“I was immensely proud simply as a Lancashire fan,” Smith told the Lancashire County Cricket Club official website.

"It came on the back of the previous year where we should have won the T20 in my opinion, so to back it up this year was great. There was a burning desire to win it and the mood in the group was ‘we’re going to win this’.

“I think that was shown when we came out on top in some games we should never have won. Even when we got into winning positions and then threw them away, we still found a way to get over the line.

“I would have loved to have been on the pitch lifting the trophy with the lads because I’ve been here since I was 13. But I was with them celebrating and I was enormously proud of them."