O'Neill looking forward to first full season in charge of Sunderland

The Northern Irishman, who replaced Steve Bruce in January, is relishing the opening day of the new season with the Black Cats, with the Gunners their first opponents

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has revealed his excitement at starting his first full season at the Black Cats helm, with a tough trip to Arsenal first up.

The Northern Irishman will be guiding the club through their sixth successive top flight campaign, after filling the role left vacant by the sacked Steve Bruce in January

Sunderland finished last season in 13th place after a poor run of form in the opening half of the season, and O’Neill was seemingly eager to right the wrongs of last term as soon as possible.

9/1 Sunderland are 9/1 to be relegated from the Premier League in 2012-13 with bet365

O'Neill told the club's official website: "The confirmation of the fixtures galvanises everyone's thoughts towards the new season and the planning and preparation has already begun in earnest."

The former Leicester coach insisted that he is relishing the challenge at the Emirates Stadium on August 18, despite the difficult challenge.

"Our opening game [against Arsenal] is certainly a challenging one,” he acknowledged.

"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."