How Sunderland once tried to re-sign 177 app former promotion-winner from Middlesbrough
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Former Sunderland player Julio Arca has admitted that Roy Keane tried to bring the defender back to Wearside following his departure to Middlesbrough.
The Argentina youth international, who now manages South Shields, made the move to Wearside in 2000 and spent six seasons at the club, making 177 appearances before being sold to Middlesbrough with the Black Cats heading to the Championship.
However, fast forward a year and Sunderland had gained promotion back to the Premier League under Keane and were interested in bringing Arca back to the Stadium of Light but the player decided to stay put at Middlesbrough with the Teessiders also still in the top-flight.
“After a year of being at Middlesbrough, obviously Roy Keane arrived at the club (Sunderland). And then a year after, Sunderland tried to sign me again but Middlesbrough didn’t want to let me go at that time,” Arca said.
Asked if he would have returned to Sunderland, Arca responded: “It would have been a hard decision. I was playing at Middlesbrough but you know, it was good to hear that a club that you were at before want you back. Especially him (Roy Keane) as well.
“It meant that you’d done something good there, you know? But it was hard for me to leave Middlesbrough. They provided me with a great opportunity. I was playing.”
On crossing the Wear-Tees divide, Arca added: “I’m sure some fans were upset about me being there or going there but I think people understood. I was only 25 or 26, so I wanted to play as high as I could.
“The majority of people were the right way with me. I think it would have been different if I had gone to Newcastle put it that way. You’ve seen the rivalry, you know what it is like. Sunderland-Newcastle is a lot bigger than Sunderland-Middlesbrough.
“The last 10 to 15 years we have had a lot of players go between Middlesbrough and Sunderland like Grant Leadbitter. Stewy (Stewart Downing) came from Middlesbrough to Sunderland on loan so the rivalry isn’t as big as it is with Newcastle."