Julio Arca on derby, Steve McClaren’s attacking intent and his South Shields ambitions

Julio Arca
Julio Arca

Perhaps, Sam Allardyce was destined to cross paths with Steve McClaren in his first Wear-Tyne derby as Sunderland boss.

In his new autobiography, Allardyce refers to the current Newcastle boss as Steve ‘bloody’ McClaren as their respective managerial careers intertwined.

Allardyce was inevitably dejected after McClaren got the England job ahead of him in 2006.

And prior to Allardyce’s appointment as Blackburn boss two years later, McClaren was in the minds of the board at Ewood Park as an alternative candidate.

As they go head-to-head on Sunday, the stakes are sky-high for both.

In his Stadium of Light bow, Allardyce is desperate to maintain Sunderland’s winning streak over the Magpies and, more importantly, give the Black Cats their maiden victory of the campaign.

Julio Arca, centre, in action against Newcastle

Julio Arca, centre, in action against Newcastle

McClaren, meanwhile, has a chance to cement his relationship with Newcastle supporters, who were already beginning to raise doubts on the summer appointment prior to Sunday’s 6-2 win over Norwich.

In a derby which could be more of a game of chess than British Bulldogs, ex-Sunderland favourite Julio Arca says the tactical battle between the two managers will be fascinating.

Arca said: “I think it will be very interesting how the two managers set-up, because both defences have struggled. Do they play safe or do they go for it?

“If I was in that position, I would probably make sure we were safe at the back first and foremost, and then see what happens.

Arca in action with South Shields

Arca in action with South Shields

“I know McClaren well and he’s a coach who likes to attack, but it hasn’t happened for him at Newcastle.

“I am sure he will be looking to win this game, especially after the result the other day. Newcastle need to get on a run.

“Some managers need time and for the players to get to know them, which happened with Louis van Gaal last season.

“Obviously there is a different kind of pressure at the other end of the league and this is a big game for both managers.”

Allardyce will bid to become the fourth successive Sunderland manager to beat Newcastle in his second game in charge, and in the process, make it a record sixth straight derby successes.

That run has clearly played a part mentally for the two sets of players in the tussles between the sides over the last two seasons.

But both sides have refreshed personnel over the summer and Arca knows from personal experience that overseas recruits can react differently to their first taste of the derby cauldron.

He said: “Obviously the last three times Sunderland have changed managers before the derby, they’ve won. Maybe that will create some superstition for Newcastle.

“But the two teams have changed even since the last derby. Newcastle have got a lot of new players, as have Sunderland.

“My first game was in the 2-1 at St James’s and I didn’t realise how much it meant going into that game.

“But from then on, I knew it was the fixture the fans looked for.

“I believe Sunderland playing at home with 48,000 onside could be a big influence.”

Does home advantage HAVE to be a factor for Sunderland though, considering Newcastle’s win last weekend left the Black Cats as the only side in the top four divisions without a victory to their name?

“When you are down there at the bottom of the table, if you don’t start picking up points before Christmas, it makes it much harder,” said Arca.

“The way Sunderland have started, the sooner they pick up points, the better.

“We know how much this one means for the city, the fans, the players, everyone, and if they win, their confidence will immediately be much higher, and then they can take that into the next game.”

Meanwhile, Arca is continuing his own playing ambitions after netting three goals in seven games for Northern League side South Shields after signing for them during the summer.

Arca’s signing has provided a huge boost to Shields’ crowds, with the club currently topping the Northern League Second Division.

He added: “It’s been good. I was playing in the Sunday League last season to keep myself fit, but the Northern League is obviously a higher standard with some good players in there.

“The chairman is backing the club and wants to take it as far as he can in the next five years and it has been great to see crowds of 1,000 at this level.

“I joined to play football, but if my presence can help to bring in more fans, then that’s great.”

Arca and former Sunderland pair Gary Bennett and Kieron Brady are holding their Back to Basics coaching sessions next week for youngsters in the half-term holidays.

Sessions will take place at Hartlepool’s Dyke House College between Monday and Wednesday, and at Castle View Enterprise Academy, in Sunderland, between Wednesday and Friday.

For more information visit btbcoaching.co.uk or contact 07749 600 498.