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Opening Daws

Michael Dawson paid tribute to Newcastle's fine 2011-12 campaign after we were handed an opening-weekend trip to the Sports Direct Arena in the Barclays Premier League next season.

The 2012-13 fixtures were announced on Monday and we travel to the Toon on Saturday, August 18 – date subject to change.

Alan Pardew’s men impressed last term as they fought all the way for a top-four place before finishing fifth on the final day.

Goals from Rafa van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe earned a 2-2 draw on Tyneside in October last season before one of our best displays blew Newcastle away at the Lane – we were 4-0 up by half-time in a 5-0 win in February.

Now both teams will put their credentials on the line in an intriguing first weekend encounter.

“Full credit to Newcastle, they were right up there with a shout of a top-four spot until the last weekend of the season, scrapping away up there with us, Arsenal and Chelsea for third and fourth,” said Michael, who added that he ‘can’t wait’ for next season after an injury-hit 2011-12 campaign.

“They had a fantastic season. It’s now a new season and that means a fresh start for everyone. I’m sure after having such a good season last season they will want to do even better.”

After the tricky trip to Toon, we face West Brom and Norwich at home, newly-promoted Reading away and then QPR at home.

“We always look to win our home matches and they are all winnable games, but there are no easy games, no ‘gimmes’, that’s for sure,” added Michael.

“No-one gives you three points, you have to go out and earn them, whoever you play.”