Julio Arca says South Shields FC is in good hands after announcing his retirement from football.
The Shields skipper has decided to hang up his boots with immediate effect after three successful years with the Mariners.
Arca helped Shields to three successive promotions and the FA Vase on a historic day at Wembley last year, as well as significantly boosting the attendances at Mariners Park during his time with the club.
He leaves Shields with the club set to play in the Evo-Stik Premier Division next season, and believes, with the strong squad and the stewardship of joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, the future is bright.
“It (retirement) was something that was in my mind and I said to the chairman that if I didn’t feel right to continue then I would look at things,” said Arca, 37, in his first interview since the announcement.
“I’ve based the decision on how I feel now, but I might feel like changing my mind in two or three months!
“But I think I’ve done enough for the club. I’ve helped them to move forward in the past few seasons and they are in very good hands with the players and the two great managers that they have there.
“They are doing the right things and I’m sure they will carry on that.”
Arca moved over to England from Argentina in 2000 when Peter Reid signed him for Sunderland, and he went on to play more than 160 games for both the Black Cats and Middlesbrough before retiring from the professional game in 2013 with a foot injury.
However, he returned to play pub football with Willow Pond before joining Shields in 2015, and has become a cult hero in the region.
He added: “When I first came here, I didn’t expect to even play in England that long.
“I thought I’d maybe move on to Spain or somewhere after one or two years. But it’s nearly 18 years I’ve been here now!
“I’ve ended up staying at different clubs in the North East then from the professional game into Sunday League and then to playing for South Shields.
“The people here respect players that commit and try their best and I think I’ve done that. I get respect from all of the clubs I’ve played for and that’s great.”