From fan to team-mate! Young footballer reunited with childhood hero Julio Arca – 11 years after first meeting

Dillon Morse, left, alongside now team-mate Julio Arca in 2005.
Dillon Morse, left, alongside now team-mate Julio Arca in 2005.

A footballer is living a childhood dream as he lines up alongside one of his idols – 11 years after first meeting him as a young boy.

Dillon Morse, 21, was pictured as a star-struck youngster in 2005 alongside then-Sunderland AFC midfielder Julio Arca.

Julio Arca scores a penalty for South Shields during their Northern League Division Two title-winning season last time out. Picture by Peter Talbot.

Julio Arca scores a penalty for South Shields during their Northern League Division Two title-winning season last time out. Picture by Peter Talbot.

The pair are now lining up together as Northern League team-mates for South Shields FC.

Dillon, who has played for Carlisle United, Gateshead and Blyth Spartans in the past, joined the Mariners in the summer.

Julio, meanwhile, made a surprise move to the club last September after a professional career which also included a spell with Middlesbrough.

Defender Dillon admits it is now surreal to be able to call Julio a team-mate.

When I got the photo taken with him. I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that one day we’d play alongside each other

Dillon Morse

He said: “My mam was looking through some old photos and found that one of me and Julio.

“I’ve always been a big Sunderland fan, and on that day my dad took me down to get photos with some of the players, including Julio.

“It’s crazy to think that 11 years on we’re in the same team.

“Julio was one of my favourite players, and it’s a proud thing for me and my family that I’m playing in the same team as a Sunderland legend.

Dillon Morse joined South Shields from Blyth Spartans during the summer.

Dillon Morse joined South Shields from Blyth Spartans during the summer.

“When I got the photo taken with him, I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that one day we’d play alongside each other.”

Dillon held a season ticket for four years at the Stadium of Light alongside dad Darren and brother Ryan.

That was during Julio’s heyday, with the Argentine having been a favourite at the Stadium of Light between 2000 and 2006.

Julio and Dillon could make their first competitive outing as team-mates on Saturday when Shields travel to Marske United to take part in an FA Cup tie.

And Dillon, from Sunderland, says the midfielder is as good as ever.

He added: “He always seems like he has time on the ball.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve played alongside, and is still as fit as anyone.

“It’s fantastic to see that he still hasn’t lost any of his ability, and he’s a massive player for us.

“When I signed for Shields, my family was buzzing at the fact I might play alongside Julio.

“They’re as delighted as me that he is just as good as ever.”