Ex-Sunderland and Middlesbrough star Julio Arca signs for South Shields

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Former Sunderland star Julio Arca is set to play Northern League football after agreeing a deal to join South Shields.

The Argentine, who was a crowd favourite in his spell at the Stadium of Light between 2000 and 2006, played Sunday League football for Wearside pub the Willow Pond last season.

Arca ended his professional career after a seven-year spell at Middlesbrough came to an end in 2013, but the central midfielder, who can also play at left-back, says his competitiveness is as strong as ever.

He is expected to be in attendance to watch his new Mariners team-mates take on Easington Colliery tomorrow, ahead of a potential debut next Saturday against Stokesley at Mariners Park.

The 34-year-old said: “I’ve been in talks with the manager, Jon King, and the chairman Geoff Thompson for a while, and they’re really excited about bringing the club up and progressing to make the club bigger.

“I want to bring some excitement to the club. The team is doing really well at the moment and are up near the top of the league, and hopefully we’ll get even more fans excited enough to come and watch the games. The aim is to win the league.

“I came here before the season even started, so they told me all about what they’re looking for and what the ideas are here. It’s a long-term plan, so everything looked exciting.

“I’m really competitive in everything I do, so I want to win every game. That’s how I was like last season playing Sunday League football with my friends.

“I was probably one of the most competitive in the team, because if I’m going to do something, I want to do it right.”

Arca watched South Shields for the first time in their pre-season friendly at Seaham Red Star in July, and was impressed with what he saw.

He is now hoping attendances at Mariners Park – which are currently averaging 325 for league games this season – will rise even further.

Arca added: “Me being here will hopefully help the club. I know South Shields is half Newcastle and half Sunderland, but hopefully the Sunderland fans who saw me playing will follow me here and watch the games. That would be excellent.”