THE word "promising" has often proved more an epitaph than a forecast of a glittering future, but in Mark "Vinny" Vincent's case the promise did materialise. Even in his youngest days in his parents garden, Vinny showed some nice touches!
Playing football in the Lowestoft & District League in his teenage years, Vinny was encouraged by his wife Tracey to seek higher things in football and a wander down Wellesley Road saw him sign on for Gt Yarmouth in 1984.
Vinny started in the Reserves under John Cogger and his first mention in dispatches was when he scored his first goal for the club in an Anglian Combination match against St Andrews on October 20th 1984. He was also credited with an assist for a second goal and the headline read: "VINCENT SMILING."
And that is just about as good a summing up of his career as any: Mark is always smiling in victory or defeat, and that is his philosophy in life.
Mark made his first team debut in a 5-4 home win over Clacton Town on 6th April 1985. Six appearances at the end of the season were followed by another six in 1985/86 before Mark began to establish himself in the first team with 30 appearances and six goals in season 1986/87: his first senior goal was scored on September 22nd 1986 in a 2-0 home win over Braintree.
However, a broken leg sustained in a derby game with Gorleston on 27th October 1987 almost brought a fledgling career to a premature end. Mark vowed never to play football again but two years later some mates (to whom we must be eternally grateful) persuaded him to take up the game again, just on a Sunday you understand, and just as a way to get fit for his other sporting love, squash! Yarmouth manager Bill Punton got to hear of this and talked Mark into signing for Gt Yarmouth once again.
When Bill moved across Norfolk to manage Diss, it was not long before Mark followed him there for one season, and a successful one too. But Mark was a hometown boy and the call of the Wellesley proved too strong, and by 1992 he was back at his old stamping ground.
This was to prove the start of a sequence of appearances in which Mark missed just two games in seven seasons, being ever-present in four consecutive campaigns. When he suffered a rare injury that kept him out of the last six games of the 1999/2000 season, he had stepped out in Yarmouth's colours for 272 consecutive games. Only three games were missed in season 2000/2001, but with the advancing years and increased responsibilities at work (Mark is a cold store supervisor), 2001/2002 saw ten games missed.
Mark officially retired at the end of the 2000/2001 season, with full honours and with due celebrations of his career, but you would not know it! The 500 mark came and went at Stowmarket, and now the 600 has gone. In his 601st game, Vinny scored his first goal of this current season, and his 64th in all. On 21st December 2002, who would have predicted another milestone - his first-ever hat-trick, scored in a home game against Ely City: goals one and two were trademark far-post headers from corners, goal number three an injury-time penalty!
Mark is certainly making it very difficult for anyone to even remotely challenge his record in the future!