Black Cats legend Julio Arca visited the Echo yesterday – as he chatted with fans about all things Sunderland AFC and his Wembley joy.
The midfielder, who played for Sunderland between 2000 and 2006, came into the Echo’s office for a live question and answer session on Facebook.
One of the main topics of conversation was the 36-year-old’s success with South Shields, who he has helped into the FA Vase final at Wembley in May.
Julio also discussed Sunderland’s current plight, and thanked the club’s fans for their continued support for him, over a decade after he left the Black Cats.
He said: “I really enjoyed the interview and the chance to interact live with the fans.
“The majority of them were asking about South Shields, which shows you how excited people are at the moment.
Sunderland fans have always been great with me. They will always hold a special place in my heartJulio Arca
“A lot of people were wishing us well for Wembley and it’s great to feel that support.
“Sunderland fans have always been great with me. They will always hold a special place in my heart.
“They’re going through a bad spell at the moment but still have that hope they can survive again.
“There are still 30 points to play for and it’s going to be hard, but they can still do it.”
Julio is set for his first-ever appearance at Wembley when Shields take on Cleethorpes Town in the Vase final on Sunday, May 21.
The Argentinian scored a stunning goal in the second leg of the semi-final against Coleshill Town on Saturday, helping the Mariners to a 6-1 aggregate win in front of a record crowd of 3,454.
Shields are into two other finals, too, and remain in contention for the Northern League Division One title.
Julio added: “We’re into three finals now and still have a chance in the league, so there’s a lot to play for.
“We’re in a good position at the moment and hopefully we can continue our good form so we win some trophies.
“It’s really nice to get to three finals, but we’re not just happy to go into them and lose. We want to win them all.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up thick and fast and just need to keep winning.”
On the support, he said: “It has been fantastic. We knew this was going to be a big season and we were going to get a lot of support, but didn’t expect anything like this. The support is fantastic, and is getting better and better.”