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Five Fixtures To Look Forward To Next Season

This morning we finally learned of our fixtures for the forthcoming Premier League season, and though we don't have six points to take off Newcastle this year there are other games we can look forward to - a new stadium to visit, renewed rivalries and the head of Steve Bruce are just some of the things to come in the next year for Sunderland.

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Middlesbrough (H) - Saturday August 20th 2016

We might not have our yearly wins against Newcastle to look forward to next season but lets face it, playing Middlesbrough isn't a bad second prize.

We owe our Teeside neighbours one after they got one over on us the last time that we met, when a single Scott MacDonald goal separated the two sides to send the underdogs into the quarter finals of the Capital One Cup in October 2012. That was an absolutely miserable day to be a Sunderland supporter and, personally, I want to see us steamroller the Premier League newcomers just to remind them who the top dogs in the North East really are.

The last time we beat Middlesbrough was in February of 2012, when a late Stephane Sessegnon winner in the FA Cup forth round replay sent the Sunderland supporters home happy on what was a long, stressful night - believe me, I remember it well.

In all seriousness though, this is a massively interesting fixture. The teams that come up from the Championship often come blaring out of the blocks in the early stages of the season and by no means will they be an easy opponent, especially with the quality of football that they play. Aitor Karanka likes his side to play a slick, possession-based style of football and I expect that with a number of quality additions to their squad they will surprise alot of people next year with just how well they do.

It's about the best way to get your season off to a good start, though. Once we get past Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on the opening day we have a massive home fixture to look forward to. The stadium will be packed, the fans will be right up for it and hopefully the players will treat the game and the history between the two sides with the utmost respect.

West Ham United (A) - Saturday October 22nd (A)

The only new ground that Sunderland fans will get to visit - in the Premier League, at least - is the Olympic Stadium, the home of Slaven Bilic's West Ham United following their move from Upton Park at the end of last season.

October isn't a bad month for us, with games against Stoke and West Brom preceding this one, so hopefully by the time we get to Stratford we'll be visiting the new ground full of confidence, with the always-full Sunderland away end behind the players to cheer them on.

Personally, I'm hoping to get to this one. I'm a sucker for a new stadium and with the away ticket price cap in force, we can't be ripped off by West Ham anymore like they did whenever we rocked up at Upton Park. Win-win.

Hull City (H) - Saturday November 19th 2016

I hate Steve Bruce. Like, I actually despise him. His fat head, his cannot-be-arsed dead trim, his 'it's never my fault' attitude, his constant bemoaning of the fact he was sacked by our club and, above all else, the fact the bastard somehow manages to beat us every time we play his plastic, shite team. I cannot stand the man.

If he's somehow still the manager by the time Hull rock up at the Stadium of Light, I really hope we properly turn them over. Hopefully by then the honeymoon period that the promoted clubs tend to go through will be over, and Bruce will be staring at the abyss, clinging onto his job for dear life before Sunderland hammer the final nail into his coffin.

We can dream.

Burnley (A) - Saturday 31st December 2016

One of the good things about the sides that came up from the Championship this season is that they're all Northern teams, making the away day experience a slightly less strenuous one.

My experiences of visiting Turf Moor to watch Sunderland play aren't particularly good ones, meaning that on this occasion I'm hoping we can go there and take three points at the height of the Christmas holiday season.

The last time I was there was for a pre-season friendly. We lost 1-0, Titus Bramble gave away a penalty and we were virtually embarrassed by a Championship side that looked much fitter and better prepared than we did, which was worrying considering we were a matter of weeks from the season opener away at Liverpool. Guess who the Sunderland manager was that day? I'll give you a clue - it rhymes with Thieve Puce.

So, with this finally being the year that Sunderland turn a corner and all that, you have to think that this will be a game that Sam Allardyce's men will be expected to win should we be looking to achieve anything this season. As well-oiled and organised as Burnley are, they're still expected to struggle and we simply have to change our luck when it comes to battling with the newly-promoted sides.

On top of that, it's only about two and a half hours away, which means we'll have plenty time to make it home for the New Years Eve slurp.

Middlesbrough (A) - Saturday 11th March 2017

I've made my point regarding Boro further up the page so I won't go on too much, but the Riverside is a ground I actually quite like visiting, and with this game fairly late on in the season it could have huge meaning for both clubs, with most pundits expecting that we'll both struggle at the bottom end of the table.

It's a long way away now so who knows - Middlesbrough might have a perfectly reasonable season and finish comfortably mid-table, much like Watford and Bournemouth did this year. It wouldn't shock me in the slightest if they did. That said, this arguably is the biggest game of the season for Middlesbrough, with us being their closest rivals, and though for us it's not quite like going to St James' Park to take on the unwashed, I still class this as a derby game.

Plus, I'm all about those short away trips. By the time the game has finished and we're back on the coaches, it'll be bath and bed before Emmerdale starts.

What games are you looking forward to? Comment below.