By Dan Sheridan - Newcastle United Managing Editor
Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the 2011/12 campaign - a remarkable season which will live long in the memory of every Newcastle fan. First up, is the Magpies' pre-season fixtures and August, of which the highlight was without doubt a Tyne-Wear derby victory away at Sunderland...
United's pre-season campaign began with a trip to nearby Darlington in mid-July, and in front of a crowd of almost 10,000 - most of them Newcastle fans - the Magpies ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Joey Barton and Sammy Ameobi.
For many, it was an opportunity to grab an first glimpse of new boys Yohan Cabaye and Mehdi Abeid, while the fixture also saw Hatem Ben Arfa make his long-awaited comeback from injury and a rare appearance from goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Just days after their trip to Darlo, the first-team squad departed for America, for three matches that would give them some much-needed game time ahead of the new campaign.
First up were Kansas City, and in sweltering temperatures that reached 37 degrees Fahrenheit by kick-off, the Toon played out a goalless draw at the Livestrong Sporting Park in a game that saw debuts from Sylvain Marveaux and Demba Ba.
Our Stateside tour continued on to Florida, and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Orlando City. Kevin Molino grabbed the only goal with 15 minutes left and Alan Pardew's men were denied a draw when a linesman's flag ruled out a Haris Vuckic effort.
The final tie of the trip, however, was far more profitable for United, and via goals from Shola Ameobi, Fabricio Coloccini and substitute Vuckic, the black and whites ran out 3-0 winners against Columbus Crew before heading home.
Back in England, and just a fortnight before the start of the 2011/12 campaign, preparations continued with a five-goal thriller at Elland Road against Simon Grayson's Leeds United.
Goals from Patrick Kisnorbo and Lloyd Sam were cancelled out by Vuckic and Steven Taylor, but it was Whites striker Billy Paynter who had the last laugh, settling the friendly with a late header.
And there was time for one more fixture before the big kick-off as Italian side Fiorentina headed to Tyneside seven days before the start of the Premier League season.
Unfortunately, their journey was to prove fruitless, as a backdrop of thunder and monsoon-like conditions saw the match abandoned after 64-minutes with the pitch waterlogged and the game goalless.
The fixture list had thrown up a challenging pair of games to get Newcastle's league campaign underway, with the opening day visit of Champions League regulars Arsenal followed by a trip to neighbours Sunderland.
And while there was no repeat of the unforgettable 4-4 draw from the previous season, the Toon held their own against the Gunners in a lively encounter that ended 0-0 at St. James' Park, despite plenty of action and incident.
Danny Simpson kept United in it with a trademark goal-line clearance, but the main talking point came on 75 minutes, when striker Gervinho - making his Arsenal debut - was shown a red card after a scuffle with Barton.
Seven days later, the fixture that fans had waited all summer for finally arrived, with the 145th Tyne-Wear derby played in front of almost 48,000 at an expectant Stadium of Light.
Steve Bruce had been the busiest manager in the top flight over the summer, signing no less than 11 new players, but in a game of few clear-cut chances, it was Ryan Taylor who provided the game's defining moment.
Jonás Gutiérrez was fouled on the edge of the box just after the hour mark, and up stepped Taylor to bend a delightful free-kick into the top corner, etching himself into Geordie folklore and prompting the start of his now famous 'over the wall' song.
With North-East bragging rights in the bag, and four points from a possible six from two testing contests, attentions switched to the Carling Cup, and a second round clash at League One Scunthorpe.
That man Ryan Taylor was at it again, levelling the scores with an expertly taken free-kick. But the show was stolen in extra-time when Sammy Ameobi truly announced his arrival on the first-team scene with a 25-yard screamer to win the tie.
The month of August was rounded off in positive fashion with a 2-1 victory over Fulham on Tyneside - a win that left the Magpies in the top six ahead of three more league fixtures in September.
Forward Leon Best grabbed the headlines with a brace after the break, and despite a late Clint Dempsey effort, the home side hung on to record their third win in the space of a week.