GARY Rowell says the opening games of the 2012-13 campaign give Sunderland a great chance to hit the ground running next season.
And the Roker Park legend is hoping the Black Cats make the most of the opportunity to get their campaign off to a morale-boosting start.
The eagerly-awaited full set of fixtures for next season was released yesterday with a daunting trip to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday, August 18, marking the start to the campaign.
But Rowell says beyond that there are a string of winnable games leading up to the trip to Manchester City at the start of October
The Sunderland legend said: “I think we’ve been given a good start to the season in terms of having the chance to get points on the board fairly quickly.
“And that’s important, because how you start in a season, whether or not you get momentum, can be so important in terms of how you progress throughout it.
“From our first home game of last season and the loss to Newcastle we never really got going and ultimately Steve Bruce paid the price.
“This time around, I think we have been handed the chance to make a decent start because after the Arsenal game I look at the likes of Reading, Swansea, Wigan and West Ham and think there’s points there and even Liverpool at the Stadium of Light is not a fixture we have to be overly worried about.” Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill said yesterday: “The confirmation of the fixtures galvanises everyone’s thoughts towards the new season and the planning and preparation has already begun in earnest.
“Our opening game is certainly a challenging one.
“There’s a lot of hard work to be done between now and then in order to ensure we are ready for the season ahead, but we are certainly looking forward to seeing what we can achieve.”
That’s an optimism shared by Rowell who said: “The close season is not a time for negativity of any kind, it’s a new campaign ahead and you’ve got to be up for it.
“I know that Sunderland fans will have been going over it with a fine toothcomb making plans for the away trips especially.
“You always look forward to your first away game and we couldn’t have had a more attractive one than the Emirates.
“Our ticket allocation is going to be massively oversubscribed because it’s arguably the best away trip of the lot and everyone looks forward to it.
“I know it will be a tough game – Arsenal finished third last season and it’s never easy going there – but if we lose it won’t affect confidence because defeat will be largely expected and you never know, we might catch them cold at the start of the season and get off to a flying start.
“I remember great things were expected of Liverpool last season and we weren’t given a prayer of getting something there and yet we got a deserved point – so no one should write the Arsenal game off.
“After that, we’ve got games where we can see ourselves getting something from all of them.
“And it would be great if, by the time October comes and the trip to Manchester City, we’ve made a solid start.”