SEB Larsson says Sunderland have nothing to fear in Saturday’s Wear-Tyne derby after the summer of team strengthening at the Stadium of Light.
And far from being nervous about the Newcastle game, the club’s goal hero from the opening day game against Liverpool says he is really looking forward to the sell-out clash.
Sunderland finished above the Magpies last season thanks to a last day win at West Ham but they were found wanting in both the games between the two sides – thrashed 5-1 at Newcastle and only escaping with a draw on Wearside thanks to a bundled last-minute goal from Asamoah Gyan.
But the Swede say Sunderland are on a club on the up and is convinced they will be a much stronger proposition this time around.
“I think I have joined Sunderland at the right time,” he told the Echo. “They have the feel of a club going places.
“Obviously I spoke to the club before signing and the manager outlined his ambitions and those ambitions coincided with mine.
“But it was still nice to see the players joining after signing myself – so many new players and good names.
“It shows the intent and I think this is the time for the club to push on – right from the beginning of the campaign.
“We’ve been given a very exciting start to the season – away to Liverpool and then home against Newcastle.
“The derby game will be interesting and I’m looking forward to it.
“It will be a fantastic atmosphere. As a player you always want to play in big matches like that.
“But it’s also important to have a strong side behind you and I think this season we have that.
“The club has signed players of the calibre of Wes Brown and John O’Shea and that says a lot.
“Those guys have been at Man United for over a decade playing games and winning trophies and they are at an age where they can still contribute an awful lot over the next few years.
“So it shows the intent of the club. It’s an exciting time for us all and that means we’ve got to go into every game feeling confident.”
Larsson was linked with a move to Newcastle United in some sections of the media in the January transfer window, once it became clear that the midfielder would not be signing a new contract at Birmingham City.
And many on Tyneside will probably go into the game this weekend believing Larsson could have been lining up for them rather than against them.
But the 26-year-old said: “I was not as close to joining Newcastle in January as it was made out in some sections of the Press.
“I never spoke to anyone personally and I didn’t speak to them in the summer.”