This morning saw a welcome distraction from the wacky world of summer transfer speculation and the deluge of rubbish that we have to wade through each day linking every man and his dog to a move to Wearside.
Despite only two weeks having passed since the last campaign officially drew to a close with the Champions League Final at Wembley, the fixture's for the 2011/12 season have arrived and we can start to make plans for the away days. Well, before SKY get their hands on them and move everything to a Sunday or midweek...
As I'm sure you're aware thanks to a combination of The Premier League, The Football League, and the FA's Legal Team from Dataco we're unable to provide you with the fixtures here, in full, on your favourite destination for all things SAFC. (Dataco wanted £266 + VAT to give us the privilege of writing out a list!)
However, after the jump, we will give you the key match-ups that matter and the relevant links where you can find the fixtures in full. We also reveal whether any of our beloved Twitter followers managed to correctly guess SAFC's opening fixture. So without further ado...
Well, well, well... I'm sure you will agree that you could not have hand-picked, barring Villa, a more exciting start to the 2011/12 term than that!
The season starts in earnest with a tricky test at Anfield, with the added interest of former Sunderland midfield prodigy Jordan Henderson possibly making his Liverpool debut against his former employers. Dalglish is being backed heavily by the Liverpool hierarchy and has a vision for a team built upon young English talent. To be honest we probably couldn't have asked for a tougher opening fixture as Liverpool will no doubt be out to make an instant impact on the league and impress their fans.
Then for the first home game of the season. There's no way you can add any further excitement and anticipation onto this fixture... oh wait... let's chuck Newcastle United into the mix! I'm sure I am not the only one that is foaming at the mouth already for this one. Hopefully, following a good pre-season and with it being such early days in the season, injuries and suspensions will not come into play for the derby and both sides should have a full compliment to chose from. There is no doubt that this derby will come with an extra side serving of spice given SAFC's poor showings in last years games and hopefully Steve Bruce will be able to put the record straight.
August is rounded off with the short trip down the road to Wales to face Premier League new boys Swansea. Hopefully by the time SAFC face the Welsh outfit the swagger and confidence that newly promoted sides often play with in the opening few fixtures will have faded and the Black Cats may have a chance of taking the spoils.
The end of October sees the clash that many Sunderland fan's are clamouring for, in some instances more so than the derby. Yes, it's the possible return to Wearside of former fan favourite Darren Bent. I say possible, because given the current turmoil at Villa who knows if Bent will throw his toys out of the pram once more in a bid to engineer yet another move to a "big club". However, should Darren decide not to follow the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing out of Villa, I recommend that you bring some earplugs as the boos that will greet each and every touch of the ball that the England international makes will be greeted with deafening boos from the fan's that he turned his back on.
The traditionally busy Christmas period brings an interesting smattering of fixtures beginning with a trip to the latest Millionaire's club in the top flight, QPR. Sunderland finally put to rest a torrid away record in the capital last season, going unbeaten for the entire term, a trend I'm sure we all hope we can carry forward. Boxing Day see's Everton make the trip to the Stadium of Light, which should be an interesting match up in-front of a sell out crowd.
SAFC see out the year with a New Years visit of big spenders Manchester City before we see in the new year with a trip to everyones favourite rugby side Wigan.
March brings with it the return leg of the Tyne/Wear derby. All Sunderland fans will want to forget the Halloween horror show of last season and surely we can be guaranteed of at least a better performance this time round. Well, if the team actually show up and put up a fight this year it will already be 110% better than that disgrace. I know its early days in the summer transfer merry-go-round, but without the likes of Carroll, Nolan and Barton making his desire to move on well known, it will no doubt be a very different Newcastle side that we face next year. The players named were the heartbeat and driving force behind NUFC's derby success last year and hopefully for us, without them, Newcastle may not have the same fight and passion which we saw in abundance in 2010/11. Time will tell.
Sunderland's run in to the finishing post is a mixed bag. We start off April with the visit of everyone's favourite wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp and his t'riffic Spurs side... This game is quickly followed by a visit to Merseyside to take on the Toffees before the visit of Mick McCarthy's plucky Wolverhampton Wanderers. We then find ourselves in Birmingham ready for "Bent Backlash, part deux" where, hopefully, we can finally put to rest the whole saga by doing the double over McLeish's side. Bolton Wanderer's visit the SOL rounds up the month of April.
The Black Cats round up the 2011/12 with a tough double, with a trip to Fulham before, if the season just passed is anything to go by, a potential title decider as the reigning Champions Manchester United bring their talented bunch to Wearside.
After pouring over the fixture list, frantically looking for all the key matches, I'm sure I was not the only SAFC fan that then began to look for series' of games where we could, potentially of course, put together a run of results. For me there are three key periods of the season where we should be looking to put together a string of results. These include:
- The end of September see's Sunderland face Stoke City at home, a trip to Norwich before taking on West Brom at the SOL.
- November/December has a stretch of four games including back-to-back home games against Fulham and Wigan, before a visit to Wolves and is followed by Blackburn on Wearside.
- January/February has a three game stretch which is made up of, again, two home games in quick succession against Premier League newcomers Swansea and Norwich respectively before a trip to the Britannia to take on Stoke.
And that's that. If the anticipation of the new season was not already building with the transfer bandwagon gathering pace a mouth-watering start has only increased this excitement ten fold!
The full list of fixtures can be found here, at the official SAFC website.
We also asked our twitter/facebook friends to have a guess at who SAFC would face on the opening day. Whilst nobody was spot on with their guesses, my sister-in-law-to-be did predict we would play Liverpool at the SOL, so we'll give Emma Rushmer the plaudits for being almost bang on the money!
Anyway, I'm off to twitter to see what lies Alan Nixon has put together today... toodles!
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