Sam Allardyce has departed for England, drinking deep from that most poisoned of chalices, replaced by a man top of most Sunderland fans (and Ellis Short’s) managerial wish-lists for the last decade. Now we can look forward to a few weeks of frenetic transfer activity, followed by the big kick off against Manchester City on August 13th.
Here are just five reasons I'm excited about the new season.
Sunderland vs Middlesbrough - August 21, 1:30pm
We all shed a tear when Newcastle finally succumbed to the inevitable in May (especially because, as we all now realise, this was the best year to be relegated). But fortunately for those of us who like to see all the North East teams do well, plucky little Middlesbrough are back in the top flight, with Aitor Karanka’s new squad eager to do a half-full Riverside proud. Just don’t tell them it’s not the proper derby, that makes them very sad.
Sunderland vs Hull - November 19, 3pm
He of the big fat head may be gone, but these games have had more than a little bit of needle about them for a while, and it’s hard to see that changing now. One you’d expect David Moyes to be targetting for 3 points, Sunderland’s recent record against Hull is poor but hopefully the lads will be looking to put that right. Should be a fiery affair, as well as a good litmus test of this season’s squad.
Burnley vs Sunderland - December 31, 3pm
New Year’s Eve in Lancashire, who could possibly ask for more? Norwich’s relegation may have seen the loss of one of the most entertaining away trips in the calendar, but a wintry trek to Turf Moor isn’t a bad replacement. Looking forward to wooden seats, meat pies and memories of David Connolly’s last minute screamer.
Everton vs Sunderland - February 25, 3pm
The last few seasons have seen Goodison Park lose some of its reputation as a graveyard for Sunderland teams, whilst you can guarantee that this was the first fixture David Moyes checked when he agreed to take the job (after Manchester United, perhaps). Always an entertaining trip, Goodison Park is one of the greatest away grounds in the country if you don’t actually want to be able to see anything that’s going on on the pitch. Historically, that’s been an advantage.
Chelsea vs Sunderland - May 21, 3pm
In which David Moyes leads his team of champions to a final, most unlikely victory and pips Conte, Guardiola and Mourinho to the title. Or, alternatively, in which a Sunderland team which has been safe for six games plays out a meaningless dead rubber of a fixture on a balmy summer afternoon in West London. Yes, that’d do for us.