Julio Arca: Forget Sunderland and Middlesbrough – I can achieve Wembley dream with South Shields

Julio Arca
Julio Arca

Julio Arca admits he is dreaming of the Wembley debut he was denied during 13 years at Sunderland and Middlesbrough – with South Shields.

And if the North East’s favourite adopted Argentine and his Shields teammates make it to the Home of Football, he expects an army to accompany them.

A army up to 30,000 strong.

In six seasons on Wearside and seven on Teesside, Arca didn’t come close a Wembley appearance.

Even Sunderland’s run to the 2004 FA Cup semi-final only ever promised a day out at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

But now, a decade and a half since arriving as a teenager from Argentina, one of Arca’s boyhood ambitions back in suburban Buenos Aires could be realised – from 10 rungs down English football’s ladder...

And a year on from playing in the Sunderland Sunday League.

Never mind the rollercoaster of relegations and promotions at the Stadium of Light, 34-year-old Arca feels like an excited kid again – even though Shields are still six games from Wembley.

“I’ve never got a chance to play there (Wembley). It would be unbelievable to do it from the Northern League,” he said.

“And believe it or not, I’ve pictured us playing there. Hopefully I’m not wrong.

“It would be fantastic for the town, but also for me personally. To play at Wembley...wow!”

Amazement has come as standard for Arca and co at Shields in recent months, with an 19-game winning run and the club’s return to the town triggering a staggering public response.

A Northern League Division Two record crowd of 1400-plus turned out for the club’s last home game – and Arca can only see that support gathering pace if the road to London continues past a third-round Vase home tie against Morpeth on Saturday and all the way to May 22.

“I think it’s only to get bigger. Our next FA Vase game is at home, and my guess is the crowd will be close to 2000,” he said.

“If we got to Wembley? Woah, I tell you now, there’s going to be a good 20 or 30 thousand there.”

But one thing Arca does not believe South Shields’ players would do at football’s greatest venue is appear out of place.

“We’ve got a good team. We pass the ball and we play good football. And we have players who could definitely play higher,” he added.