JORDAN Henderson will face his former team-mates on the opening day of the season, as Sunderland get their 2011-12 campaign underway at Liverpool.
The England Under 21 star, subject of a £19.25m transfer between the two clubs this month, will be the focus of attention when the season starts on August 13.
But most Black Cats fans will be forgiven for already having one eye on the following week’s fixture: Sunderland’s derby game against Newcastle United will be their first home game of the season.
The games are pencilled in for the first two Saturdays of the season but both of the attractive fixtures have every chance of being switched to Sunday to suit satellite TV schedules.
It is an opening month of contrasts, with the final game of August being an away trip to newly-promoted Swansea City.
And Sunderland will be grateful of that fixture as an obvious opportunity to pick up points in what is a tough start to the season – Liverpool, Newcastle and Champions League Chelsea being opponents in three of the first four fixtures.
After that baptism of fire, Sunderland will be looking to prosper in games against Stoke, Norwich and West Brom which will see the club through September and into October.
The return fixture at St James’s Park is not much until much later in the season, falling on March 3, with Sunderland due to host Liverpool a week later.
The Black Cats’ Boxing Day game this season will see Everton travel to the Stadium of Light and Sunderland are also at home for a New Year’s Eve fixture, when Champions League Manchester City head to the North East.
The season will end on a high with the visit of Manchester United to the Stadium of Light on August 13 by which time Sunderland will hope they are long since safe from any relegation battle.
For the first time in years, Sunderland will have an Easter programme to contend with - they are due to face Spurs at home on April 7 and Everton away on April 9.
Full story in Saturday’s Mail