JULIO ARCA admits he is still coming to grips with missing this weekend’s Wear-Tees derby, writes CHRIS YOUNG.
The former Sunderland favourite has been ruled out of an emotional return to the Stadium of Light on Sunday after collecting a three-game ban for a straight red card in Middlesbrough’s 3-1 defeat at Coventry City last weekend.
Arca was given his marching orders for a two-footed lunge on Sky Blues midfielder Sammy Clingan, with Boro opting not to appeal against the dismissal.
For the Argentine midfielder, it has been a bitter pill to swallow after making more than 150 appearances during six years on Wearside.
Arca said: “It is Sunderland v Boro at the Stadium of Light, a full house, it is going to be shown live in Argentina – so that’s even worse and my dad is gutted.
“But it is not going to happen for me. I still can’t really believe it.
“I am totally disappointed. This is probably our biggest game of the season and of course it meant more to me to play there, but there is nothing I can do now.
“When the draw was made I didn’t see it, but my phone was going crazy, ‘ping, ping, ping’ with texts from people.
“I kept getting them from Sunderland fans saying ‘you’re playing us’ and of course I was absolutely delighted.
“My friend from Argentina texted me and said things happen for a reason. I politely told him to get lost, but maybe he is right.”
Arca maintains that the 92nd-minute red card issued by referee Gary Sutton was a harsh one, on a day when nine-man Boro succumbed to a third successive Championship defeat.
“I have seen tackles far worse just recently that have not even been a yellow card,” added Arca, brought to Sunderland for £3.5million from Argentinos Juniors in the summer of 2000.
“I saw the referee run over and when I saw the other guy tell him I didn’t touch him, thought ‘yeah, yellow card’.
“I couldn’t see the card at first in the floodlights, but I when I turned my head and saw it was red, I couldn’t believe it.
“And of course, I knew straight away what it meant and everything collapsed.”