We reached the first key milestone of the summer earlier this morning as the 2012/13 Premier League fixtures were revealed and the conspiracy theories could begin as to who was granted the easier run. Put away your tin-foil hats people, everyone plays everyone, there's nothing to see here!
I'm sure you will all be aware of the ridiculous copyright legislation that surrounds the publishing of the list itself in full, so to avoid the wrath of Dataco's legal team, we'll abide by their wishes - but we will have a closer look at the fixtures and all the important clashes we can look forward to come August.
There are just sixty-one short days before Sunderland travel to the capital for a tough test on the opening day against Arsenal on August 18th. The following week we welcome newly promoted Reading back to the Stadium of Light where you would imagine O'Neill's men would be confident of earning their first points of the campaign barring an upset at The Emirates of course.
September throws up an interesting early trip to the valleys as SAFC take on Michael Laudrup's Swansea, a fixture that already intrigues me as I'm fascinated to see what changes the Dane will implement on a side which drew many tedious comparisons to Barcelona last year. Interestingly enough Sunderland then face Swansea's former gaffer and his new side Liverpool the following week on Wearside, who much like the Welsh outfit may well have a very different look to it depending on Rodger's dealings in the transfer window. The always expensive trip to West Ham is next on the agenda before the visit of Wigan brings September to a close.
Into October and O'Neill's men return to the scene of what was almost a famous victory last year as Sunderland face the defending champions Manchester City at The Etihad where they will no doubt have a number of new faces on show just because they can. Which is fine by me as long as we can cut a deal for Johnson, how about it Roberto?
The first clash with the old enemy is next on the agenda as the always fiery and tempestuous derby with Newcastle will be eagerly anticipated at the SOL.
A mouth-watering tie follows the derby as Sunderland travel to Stoke... yawn.
Paul Lambert's Aston Villa are the first opponents of November as Martin O'Neill's protégé is welcomed to the Stadium of Light, a fixture which also gives the Sunderland faithful another chance to give Darren Bent some further stick, just because. The annual defeat at Goodison Park then follows before clashes with Fulham at Craven Cottage and back-to-back home games against West Brom and QPR. Ignoring the inevitable result against Everton, November looks like it has the potential for Sunderland to put a little run together, particularly the final three games.
The festive period looks a challenging one for O'Neill's men as the games come thick and fast beginning with the long trip to Norwich, before a tricky set of fixtures against Chelsea at home before making the trip to Old Trafford. Another mammoth round-trip is next up for the hordes of travelling Sunderland fans in the shape of newly promoted Southampton, a fixture which you would hope should provide an opportunity to earn a few points before 2012 is brought to a close with a tricky set of games at the Stadium as we face Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in quick succession.
The new year is a little more forgiving as following the trip to Anfield, Sunderland have a series of games against West Ham at home, Wigan away and Swansea back at the SOL, a run of games where you would like to think we would stand a good chance of picking up maximum points.
February is made up of a trip to Reading for starters, with the visit of Arsenal sandwiched between an away day at West Brom. Whilst certainly not "easy" fixtures you would hope Sunderland could emerge from February having picked up a couple of points from the away day tests.
Another series of ostensibly winnable games is on the cards come March as O'Neill's men face Fulham on Wearside, before facing QPR at Loftus Road and Norwich back on home soil. Nine points should hopefully be within our grasp before the always entertaining game that is Sunderland vs Manchester United rounds up the month.
With the finish line is sight April looks set to be a testing month for SAFC as an away day at Stamford Bridge is followed by the second leg against "them lot up the road" at the Sports Direct Arena. Tempers flared both on the field and in the dugout last time around and whilst Martin and Alan have reportedly settled their differences I imagine the "friendship" will be put on hold for another ninety minute battle for local bragging rights.
Everton's visit to the Northeast is next up for Sunderland, before travelling to the midlands and a game against Aston Villa brings April to a close.
The final three league fixtures in May brings with it a winnable pair of games, as Stoke and Southampton provide the opposition for O'Neill's men at the Stadium of Light before the season finale with Spurs at White Hart Lane.
So there you have it, the 2012/13 term in all its potential glory and believe it or not we end up playing everyone twice, now all we need is for the transfer window to kick into action and we can really start looking forward to August.