South Shields captain Julio Arca says he never believed this ‘random’ opportunity to play at Wembley would come – even when he was a pro at Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
Arca was instrumental in the Mariners’ convincing 4-0 win over Cleethorpes Town as they completed an unprecedented quadruple by lifting the FA Vase.
Goals from Carl Finnigan, Dillon Morse and a David Foley brace eased the Northern League side to a comfortable win in front of 15,000 Shields fans.
Arca, and club captain Lee Paul Scroggins, lifted the trophy in the Royal Box before the players celebrated in style on the pitch.
It was a ‘dream come true’ for the experienced Arca, who thought the opportunity to play at Wembley had passed him by.
Asked how it ranked in his career, he said: “It’s hard to compare. This is something that just randomly happened.
“I never thought this was going to happen in my football career.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen professionally because when you play for Sunderland and Middlesbrough, realistically it’s hard to get to finals but to achieve this with South Shields is fantastic.”
The 36-year-old strolled through the game in the centre of midfield, prompting and probing though it took Shields until the 43rd minute to open the scoring through Finnigan’s penalty.
They were always in control though, and wrapped the win up in style late on. Morse headed home from a free-kick and Foley’s brace capped off a wonderful day for the Mariners.
“I thought the first 20 minutes we played too safe, they were doing the same,” added Arca.
“After that, we started to take control of the game and were creating chances. They had one or two chances as well but we had the better ones.
The second half, we knew they were getting tired and we took control of the game. The last 20 minutes they had to come out and we took advantage of that.
“It’s fantastic to represent this club and have the opportunity to lift this trophy. It’s a dream come true for me.
“A lot of people said it was going to happen but until you’re there, with the trophy in your hands, you never know.
“What a fantastic day. It’s hard to explain how I feel right now. I was more than happy to see how the game went, and to see that many fans – for the level we play at – was absolutely incredible.”