Sunderland have been handed a "testing" start to life back in the Championship but midfielder George Honeyman hopes the club can lay down an early marker for the season.
The Black Cats kick off their Championship campaign with a home game against Derby County on Friday, August 4 live on television ahead of a busy run of fixtures which sees them face Bury in the league cup and Norwich City (A), Sheffield Wednesday (A), Leeds United (H) and Barnsley (A) before the month is out.
Honeyman, who signed a new two-year deal at the end of last season, admits Sunderland have been handed a tough start but he is relishing the return to action after last season's relegation from the Premier League.
"I think we were all hoping to be at home and on the television for the opening game of the season," said Honeyman.
"To have the game on the Friday night also adds something and we’ll be up against a good Championship club, so it’ll be a good test and we hope to lay down a marker for the season.
"It’s a quick and testing start to the season because all of the teams we’re facing early were up and around the play-off places last year, so pre-season will be key and we want to hit the ground running.
"Leeds at home will be a great game for the fans, especially after opening the season on a Friday night, and I think I speak for the players and the fans when I say this was one of the fixtures we were all looking out for.
"It should be a great atmosphere because there’s obviously a bit of history there, and I think there’s a real feeling of excitement ahead of the new season."
* Meanwhile, Sunderland's first round Carabao Cup clash against Bury has also been selected to be shown live on TV.
It means the trip to Gigg Lane will now take place on Thursday, August 10 (KO 7.45pm) - less than 48 hours before Sunderland travel to face Norwich City on Saturday, August 12.
Ticket news for the Carabao Cup game will be announced in due course.