Former Premier League star Julio Arca admits he will have to conquer his nerves on Saturday as he tries to take on step closer to his ‘dream’ of playing at Wembley.
Despite an impressive career with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, Arca has never played at the national stadium.
Now he stands just two games away from achieving it with Northern League side South Shields in the FA Vase.
The Mariners travel to Coleshill Town for the first leg of their semi-final on Saturday, with Arca admitting he is trying not to think too hard about the prospect of playing at Wembley.
“I don’t want to curse it,” he said. “I’ve been saying in the league and other competitions that we’ve got to take it step by step, and that’s the reality.
“Yes, you can dream about it and everyone in South Shields is dreaming about that day but we have to get past this team (Coleshill) first and they are in the semi-final for a reason.”
Arca played more than 350 professional games for Sunderland and Middlesbrough, as well as captaining Argentina Under-20s.
But he says he still gets nervous about big games at non-league level.
The 36-year-old told Football Matters: “On Saturday, before the game, when I get up in the morning, your mind starts thinking about the game. It just happens.
“Your body basically sends you the signal that this is happening today, what am I going to do right, what am I going to do wrong.
“Hopefully, it’s nothing wrong but you start concentrating on the game and start to feel the nerves.
“I was nervous the last time in the quarter-final because there’s a lot of people coming and paying to watch us.
“The crowds are getting bigger and there’s big pressure on the players.
“The closer you get the more excitement and nerves you start feeling. That’s normal.
“If you don’t feel nerves going through this competition then I think you don’t like football.
“The town is excited, the club is excited – it’s the biggest game for many many years for South Shields.
“We’re only two games away from that big day.
“We believe we are capable of doing it but in this kind of competition anything can happen.
“We have to go there and get a result but it’s not going to be easy.
“It’s all about us. If we turn up and do the right things, as we have done since the start of the season, we’ve definitely got a big chance.”