John Egan believes he has come along way since he was in Sunderland's academy.
The Brentford defender is preparing for his first season in the Championship after joining from League One side Gillingham in the summer.
While the Irishman would have loved to have broken into the first team at the Stadium of Light, he still has fond memories from his time on Wearside.
Egan said: “It was fantastic. I have fond memories of the place. I'd have liked to make the breakthrough there but it wasn't to be.
“I had a fantastic five years there and learnt so much. I suffered a bad injury up there and they looked after me.
“The physio was great with me. It was a tough time but they got me back on my feet. I've got a lot of thanks to Sunderland for that. I've come a long way since that.”
Egan's Sunderland roots means the trip to Newcastle is the game to look forward to but he insists the full focus is on opening day opponents Huddersfield.
He added: “Huddersfield, as the first game, is the focus. I was at Sunderland for years so Newcastle is a pretty big one. That'll be a nice one and any time I play against a few friends that'll be good.”
Brentford's budget is one of the lowest in the league and miniscule compared to Newcastle's but, for Egan, it is all about what the players on both sides do on the day.
He explained: “At the end of the day it's 11 v 11 as you step onto the pitch. You don't think about the value of players.
“The best team will win the game. I've not thought about that type of thing. We'll take every game as it comes.”