Ex-Sunderland and Middlesbrough hero Julio Arca won a World Cup but still feels lucky to be playing in FA Vase final

At the age of 36, following an illustrious career, you’d think Julio Arca would be accustomed to the big occasion ahead of South Shields’ Wembley visit.

But Sunday’s FA Vase will be a rare senior cup final for the former Sunderland and Middlesbrough man.

Julio Arca

Julio Arca

Before the Mariners’ League Cup win over North Shields a fortnight ago, you had to go back 16 years, when he was just 20, to the last time he tasted final football.

In 2001 Arca was part of the Javier Saviola-inspired Argentina Under-20 side, which also contained former Newcastle United skipper Fabricio Coloccini, that won the FIFA World Youth Championships, beating Ghana 3-0 at the Don Pepe, home of Velez Sarsfield.

The Mariners veteran hopes to replicate that kind of performance and scoreline on Sunday, although he expects the atmosphere and occasion will far outstrip anything he has experienced before.

“I did for Argentina Under-20s when we won the World Cup – this will be totally different, playing in a stadium like Wembley,” he said ahead of the Cleethorpes clash.

Lots of things happen in life, and they happen for a reason

“I don’t see many players who have the chance to do this.

“I feel very lucky to be handed this chance in my career. I think a lot of the players feel the same.

“All those years ago back in Argentina I never thought I would end up here.

“It has been a good journey.

“Lots of things happen in life and they happen for a reason.

“I am taking it day by day and enjoying it because I don’t think the chance to go to Wembley will ever come around for us. Especially at my age.”

With three trophies already in the bag this season, South Shields’ hunger to add one more, the most prestigious, to their overflowing Mariners Park trophy cabinet is obvious to see.

Arca admits the players are desperate to make a little piece of history.

“We want to make history,” he said.

“Last season was about promotion, this season was, too. Now we are in a final and we want to enjoy it.

“Hopefully this will be the start of something special at this club over the next few years.”