Cape Town - Midfielder Lee Cattermole believes Sunderland are finally ready to shake off the tag of serial underachievers after narrowly escaping relegation in each of their last three seasons.
Cattermole, who signed a new long-term deal last month, was part of the team that finished 10th under Steve Bruce in 2011, the only time the Black Cats ended in the top half of the Premier League table in the last 14 years.
"This feels like my club. If you spend enough time somewhere, you fall in love with it," British media quoted the 27-year-old Englishman, who has spent the past six years on Wearside, as saying.
Manager Dick Advocaat has signed Jermain Lens, Sebastian Coates, Younes Kaboul and Adam Matthews over the summer and Cattermole feels the additions can help the club avoid another season flirting with relegation.
"In terms of the team, I think this is the best group of players now that I've ever been a part of here," he said.
The combative defensive midfielder said the club must try to emulate the highs of the 2000 and 2001 seasons, when Sunderland finished seventh for two seasons in a row under Peter Reid.
"We need to look to push on and get back to the kind of heights that the club enjoyed in the Peter Reid era," he said.
"They finished seventh back then, and if you can finish in or around there, then that's progress, and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be competing with where Swansea, Stoke and Southampton are."
Southampton finished seventh last season ahead of Swansea at eighth and Stoke a spot further behind.