LANCASHIRE captain Steven Croft believes the Red Rose have a better squad than the title winning vintage of 2011 as they prepare for their return to the County Championship’s top division.

It’s been boom or bust for the Old Trafford club in Division One in recent years, with the Championship-winning side relegated a year later.

They returned at the first attempt in 2013, but were relegated again in 2014, only to win promotion back last year.

While stability is Lancashire’s first aim, Croft hasn’t ruled out a tilt at the title.

“We want to win the division. We were underdogs in 2011 but I think we’ve got a better squad than then,” said the Blackpool-born 31-year-old.

“We’re very confident, we want to compete, we don’t just want to survive.

“It’s a similar feel, plenty of homegrown players and a few inexperienced one. We want to win the title but if we don’t and stay up that’s progression because the last two times we haven’t done that.

“We want to compete to win the league, but we should be aiming to be a Division One club for the foreseeable future.”

The Red Rose will be boosted early in the season with the availability of Burnley’s Jimmy Anderson, with England’s record wicket taker available for the first three Championship fixtures.

“It’s great to have Jimmy around, especially at this time of year, there’s probably nobody you’d rather have in your side in April than James Anderson,” said Croft.

“With Kyle Jarvis and Neil Wagner we’ve probably got the best swing department in the country and the seam department is right up there as well at the start of the year.”

Anderson will be up against his new ball partner for England Stuart Broad in the opening Championship fixture, with Nottinghamshire coming to Old Trafford on April 17.

And Croft is keen for Lancashire to get off to a good start and build momentum, banishing the memories of their previous two Division One campaigns.

“Momentum is very important, especially early season, there's going to be results and we want to be on the right end of them,” he said.

“It’s really important to get off to a good start and get the ball rolling.”