RAVI Bopara says the backing of Essex supporters county-wide can make a huge difference to their chances of success this season.

Essex embark on their first home match of the Specsavers County Championship division one campaign today when they host Nottinghamshire at The Cloudfm County Ground (11am start).

There are plenty of dedicated Essex followers based in the north Essex area and club stalwart Bopara says their backing is vital, as they bid to regain the Championship title they won in 2017.

Bopara, who is sitting out the Notts game because of a toe injury, told the Daily Gazette: “Essex is a big county and there’s a lot of support.

“The ground’s not big enough to get all of the supporters in - we do appreciate those who do make the effort to come down and support us.

“We do genuinely love our fans and even when we go to away games, they say ‘you guys get some good support’.

“Essex fans are quite loyal and even when we’re doing badly, they still get behind us and cheer us on so we love the fans and we thank them for making the effort.

“It makes a huge difference and it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition.

“We love playing at Chelmsford, especially playing in front of a full stadium.

“It’s only 6,000 people but it feels like 15,000 and they get right behind you.”

Essex will be looking to claim their first Championship win of the season today against Notts, following one draw and one defeat so far.

The fixture begins a run of eight games for the county, following the conclusion of the Royal London One-Day Cup a week before.

Essex have been boosted by the services of England’s record run-scorer Alastair Cook this season and Bopara says having the prolific batsman available is a big boost.

“Cookie is available again for us for a full year which is good for us and I’d give us a very strong chance,” said Bopara, who has been playing for the county for 18 years.

“He’s very much valued in this side – the job he does as opening batsman is a tough one and he does it very well and I think that’s the key to any Championship-winning side.

“We haven’t had too many changes from the side that won it.

“You need good opening bats, a good opening bowler, a good spinner and an attacking middle order.

“The youngsters who have come in are really starting to do quite well now, too.

“They’re still learning and it looks like they’ve really kicked on, this winter which is great for the future of this club.”