Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has admitted the club have reached a major crossroads in their history and the next nine league games will be the key to their long-term survival.
As American investor Ellis Short ponders additional investment which would give him 51 per cent of the club, Quinn said himself, manager Ricky Sbragia and his players are all on trial.
Sunderland last week put their £1-per-game children's season tickets on sale, but then suffered a miserable 2-1 home defeat against Wigan Athletic which put them back into the relegation fight.
Quinn, who has been in charge for almost three years, conceded that initiatives to attract supporters will be pointless unless Sunderland can maintain their Premier League status.
But if they do, he is expecting billionaire Short to invest the money to take over from the Irish Drumaville consortium and see the club challenging for a place in the top 10.
Quinn said: 'Drumaville was the most important thing for us but then it became apparent that the writing was on the wall for them and they asked me to go and find somebody.
'Ellis was intrigued by Roy Keane, the Sunderland story, and felt it wasn't your average type of investment. He is a godsend. Without him, Kenwyne Jones would probably have had to be sold, there would have been none of the Spurs guys, and no Anton Ferdinand or George McCartney.
'He's a smart guy but he wants to stay away from the limelight. If we can get those three or four quality players, if Ellis comes over that line with us, then the future is going to be better.
'I would love to give Ricky a big, long deal. Let's see how it all plays out. It's my decision and Ellis is very comfortable with that. We're talking about Ricky being on trial, but Niall Quinn is on trial. I've been on trial since I came to England.'