Fixture list reaction - ‘Good start to the season for Sunderland’

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Diaries are being edited, hotels booked and train timetables examined after the release of the fixture list for the 2015-16 campaign.

But how does the scheduling of the Premier League season look from a Sunderland stance?

Gary Bennett and Michael Proctor

Gary Bennett and Michael Proctor

Sunderland reporter Chris Young spoke with ex-Black Cats pair Gary Bennett and Michael Proctor about the fixture list.

CY: On paper, it looks a good start to the season, doesn’t it?

GB: I think so, yes. You look at the first four games and you’d be hoping for at least five points from that run.

It’s important that we get points on the table as quickly as possible. The longer it goes without a win, it makes it harder.

On the whole, the fixtures have been pretty kind

Michael Proctor

MP: Yes, we need to get points under our belt as soon as we can.

Those first six games give us an opportunity to get points.

Last season, our start wasn’t disastrous, but we need to get some good solid points on the board and get that hangover from last year off our backs and then build on a good start, rather than playing catch-up.

CY: The home games over the first half of the season are certainly more inviting than they have been over the last two years.

MP: All the tough games come in blocks of three or four which looks difficult, but it might work in our favour.

You get set up into a mentality of counter-attacking and being a little bit more solid defensively.

And if you get your tactics right in the first game, then you can just carry that through into the following ones.

Plus it means that you don’t have those top four or five teams dropped into the middle of a decent run.

GB: I think the manager will be looking at it in blocks.

He’ll be looking at the first eight games, and thinking how many points we can get out of that.

Then it’ll be the Christmas and New Year period, and how many points there, and where we should be by that stage.

When you look at the first eight games, if we can get 10 or 12 points out of 24, you’d think, yes, that’s where we’d like to be.

CY: Is it good that Bournemouth are the only newly-promoted team Sunderland face away from home early on? That always seems to be a difficult time to play them.

MP: You don’t want to be playing them in the first couple of games certainly because their crowd is going to be right up for it.

I suppose it’s a bit catch-22 though, because when you play them later in the season, they understand what the Premier League is all about and have the bit between their teeth.

We’ve probably got the promoted teams at the right time and on the whole, the fixtures have been pretty kind.

Let’s hope we’re saying that on May 15 though!

CY: Is it good that the first derby is at home to get that sixth win in a row?

GB: I’m not sure it matters. There’s that old saying about form going out the window in the derbies.

Whoever handles the situation best, wins the game.

But straightaway, the pressure is going to be on Newcastle United because of five-in-a-row.

The one thing they don’t want is to be beaten again and for Sunderland to set the record.

But with it being at home, we want to make sure we win that game.

MP: I think you’d probably have liked to play them early in the season when (Steve) McClaren hasn’t got too much chance to work with the team.

He’s a good coach and I think he might do well with them.

But they’re the stand-out fixtures, they’re the ones everyone will be looking at and certainly with the form Newcastle have had in recent derbies, you’d look to think we could make it six... or maybe seven!

* Gary Bennett and Michael Proctor were speaking at the Foundation of Light’s Fixtures Breakfast.