'It's not the despair… I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.' John Cleese's character in the film Clockwise wasn't talking about the lot of an Essex supporter but he might as well have been.

What started off as a season full of promise has in the last few weeks unravelled in to a fine mess. With chances of silverware gone, head coach Paul Grayson jumping before he was pushed and Reece Topley moving to Hampshire, it is difficult to think how it could have gone worse.

It was obvious that Ronnie Irani, the new chairman of the cricket committee at Essex, wanted his former team-mate Grayson out. Things came to a head after two quarter final defeats: outplayed by Birmingham Bears in the Natwest T20 Blast and defeated by Yorkshire in the Royal London One Day Cup. Grayson leaves after eight years in charge.

It is the second year in a row that Essex have not managed to move beyond the quarter-final stage in either competition. Under Grayson, they won more one-day games than every county except Hampshire but could not convert that in to trophies. Where they just missed out on promotion to Division One of the County Championship last year, this season they have been nowhere close.

The loss of 21-year-old Topley , who made his England debut in the recent T20 against Australia, is the biggest loss. The left-armer was seen as a leader of the county's attack for the next decade. His pointed praise of Grayson's work in the statement announcing his departure was interesting.

So what now for Essex? The squad needs improvement as several club stalwarts come to the end of their careers but there is a nucleus of young players who the new coach can build a team around. In the performances of home-grown players Nick Browne, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrence and Jamie Porter, Essex have reason to be hopeful for the future. Browne has scored four Championship hundreds opening the batting whilst the bowling attack has been led by Porter, 22, with 52 first-class wickets so far this season. Westley is Essex's best player and, after a season yielding over 1,500 runs in all forms of the game, is on England's radar. Lawrence, 17, became the third youngest centurion in Championship history when he scored 161 against Surrey in May.

There is plenty of other young talent in the squad - Aron Nijjar, Callum Taylor and Matt Salisbury to name three - and much credit for their success should be given to Grayson.

The issue for Essex is that they keep losing their best young prospects. Ben Foakes, a promising wicket-keeper batsman, left for Surrey last year in addition to the likes of Varun Chopra and Anthony Palladino before him.

Careers are short and players like Foakes and Topley want to challenge for honours which is understandable but problematic for Essex. It is a vicious circle: they lose their best players because they are not challenging for honours and as a result find it even harder to challenge.

Essex are aware of this: Porter has just signed a new three-year contract and Lawrence, an England U19 international, has also committed his future to the county. The key however is to get Westley signed up for the long term. He is contracted until the end of 2016 but whether he stays after that remains to be seen.

Whilst the younger players have led the way, a disappointing aspect of the campaign for Essex has been the performances of the senior players. Between Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Jesse Ryder, Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster they have mustered just two Championship hundreds.

Arguably it is the performances of those players rather than the coaching of Grayson which has let Essex down this year. Experienced international players who should be self-sufficient, in less need of a coach's wisdom, have not delivered. The younger generation, demanding of more advice and support, have led the way which suggests that Grayson's influence was working.

Eight years is a long time in charge though and a fresh voice was perhaps needed. That could extend to other areas of leadership. Foster and ten Doeschate currently share the captaincy duties but it feels time for a change - Foster may not carry on playing after this season anyway - with Bopara the most deserving of a chance to lead the county he has served so well, with Westley as his vice-captain.

There also needs to be some additions to the squad, one that has a lot of players at the start and end of their careers but not many in their mid to late 20s. In the bowling department Porter needs some help and although Graham Napier and David Masters will be around, another quick is needed.

Essex will also need a spinner if Monty Panesar, who has not played much due to form and personal issues, is as expected is not retained. In Nijjar, they have a left-arm spinner with promise but they need a more experienced campaigner. In one-day cricket they have often not played a specialist spin bowler this season.

No doubt it has been a tough campaign but there are reasons for optimism at the Essex County Ground with a group of young players leading the way. Whether they can turn their promise in to success remains to be seen but at least there is hope, something Essex supporters know all about.