Danny Collins believes Sunderland should be looking to break into the top half of the Premier League table this season.
The Black Cats have endured two difficult campaigns since regaining their place among England's elite in 2007.
Survival has represented the height of their ambition in each of the last two campaigns, with managerial upheaval and a number of questionable signings doing little to help their cause.
The Black Cats do, however, finally appear to have found some stability, with new investment being pumped into the club and the experienced Steve Bruce appointed at the helm.
Welsh defender Collins insists it is now time for Sunderland to start producing on the field and has called on his team-mates to accept nothing less than a top ten finish from the 2009/10 campaign.
"Top half - I don't see anything below top half as good enough," he said.
"Looking at Fulham last season, they finished seventh and I didn't really feel they, when we played them over the two games, were any better than us.
"But they perhaps worked together better as a team, and that is the sort of benchmark we have got to be looking at for next season."
Collins has been impressed by new owner Ellis Short and feels collaboration between the American billionaire and chairman Niall Quinn can help to usher in an exciting new era at the Stadium of Light.
He said: "We have got a great chairman and they are putting the money in, the other top man in charge as well. They are really having a go.
"The players we are trying to get in are only going to strengthen us.
"It's no good every season sticking with the same lads, you need to freshen it up.
"After where we finished last year, lads have moved on and naturally we are going to bring new players in.
"Looking at the players we are after, it is only going to strengthen us for next season."