Premier League fixture list excites Norwich City boss Chris Hughton
Norwich City boss Chris Hughton insisted he is itching to get started in his new job after the Canaries landed an opening day Premier League trip to Fulham on August 18.
Hughton revealed getting his hands on 2012/13 fixture list has only whetted his appetite for what lies ahead as City aim to build on an encouraging mid-table top flight finish. Norwich host QPR at Carrow Road in their first home game the following weekend before early season tests against European contenders that include his former clubs Tottenham and Newcastle, along with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Norwich's first brush with former manager Paul Lambert is a trip to Villa Park on October 27. The Canaries have also landed an attractive festive home double header against European champions Chelsea and Manchester City, with the return game against the Premier League champions coming on the final day of the season in mid-May.
Hughton's immediate priority is preparing his troops during pre-season for a Craven Cottage opener.
'The most important thing is to get back and start pre-season, to get amongst the games and see the lads on the training pitch,' he said. 'It has been fairly hectic since I arrived, but this is a season I'm really looking forward to, and I can't wait to get back to pre-season and start working with the players. I'm delighted with the reaction of the players and the fans so far, and if anything that's made me even more determined to get on do a good job.
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'Generally you'd like a home tie on the first day of the season, I think most people would, but we do have a couple of home games in pre-season for the supporters to be there. I'm sure they will be in fantastic voice at Fulham, then of course we're at home to QPR. I think overall it's a fairly even spread of fixtures. There is always going to be a run of games that are quite hard but I think overall it's quite even. One plus is that over Christmas time we've got two home games, which is good for our supporters.
'We've got Chelsea on December 26 and Manchester City on December 29. The minus is of course that it's two very difficult games on the bounce, but on the plus side it's two home games for our supporters, and it means that around Christmas time they don't need to travel as far.'
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Hughton's first return to Newcastle on September 22 since his departure from St James' Park will be a special personal moment.
'It will be special going to Newcastle and Spurs,' he told the club's official site. 'I don't like to harp on about it too much because it's not about me, it's about the team and what's good for the team, but yes there is no doubt that those two games have a little bit more meaning to me personally. It'll be a tough game with Newcastle, after what they showed last season. They certainly won't be letting up, as it was a marvellous season.
'Knowing the club, and knowing the manager, they will be desperate to replicate that once again. I am aware that going to Newcastle was a difficult game last season, and I think for anybody going there this season will be equally as difficult.
'It's a tough one, but on a personal note I'm looking forward to it, as I am with Tottenham. I have been back to Tottenham as a coach with Newcastle, not as a manager, so that's one I'm looking forward to, as I'm sure the Norwich fans are after the great result there last season.'
Hughton is unfazed by a potentially daunting finale against the reigning champions on May 19 at the Etihad.
'It doesn't get any tougher than Man City, away,' he said. 'But having said that we are at home for two back-to-back games before that against Aston Villa and West Brom.
'There are lots of difficult games though, I think we play six games over that December period, which is a lot of games, although it's the same for everybody. When you see the fixtures you look at certain areas like the start, and how difficult the finish is, but the reality is that they are all difficult games.
'You can't afford to start thinking that certain games will represent an easier period, because sometimes when you do think that way, it smacks you in the face. Sometimes the games you expect to win, you don't, and sometimes the games you don't expect to win, you can get a result.'
Roberto Mancini's side begin their title defence at home to new boys Southampton. Reading host Stoke whilst Manchester United face a tricky trip to Everton and both of Hughton's former sides, Newcastle and Tottenham, meet in the north-east.
Arsenal have a home opener against Sunderland while Chelsea travel to Wigan on August 18.