Great Yarmouth Town’s marathon man Mark Vincent: I’ll keep on going
Milestone man Mark Vincent declared that he is ready to answer the call of duty any time after making his 750th appearance for Yarmouth Town's first team at the weekend.
The Bloaters' most dedicated servant took centre stage when he stepped up from the club's second string to make his 750th first team appearance, some 28 years after making his debut.
After a typically commanding show in the heart of the defence, the Wellesley's favourite warrior admitted he had no idea when he will be hanging up his boots.
'I will definitely see the season out. I am captain of the reserves. I don't feel my age but I have got to be realistic. I will be 50 by the end of this season. I enjoy playing competitively and I have no intention of playing veterans football,' he said.
Vincent, who was made captain for the day, had an hour-long run-out in Saturday's Thurlow Nunn Division One 3-1 win over Cornard before handing the armband back to Callum Jones and leaving the field to rapturous applause.
He reflected: 'We got the result. The main thing was that we won the match. I was more than pleased with how it went. I didn't make any mistakes and I won plenty of headers.'
Manager Mike Derbyshire confirmed: 'He played well, the goal certainly wasn't his fault and he looked as solid as ever. In the first half he had a header that went just wide. It would have been nice if he had scored a goal.'
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The many tributes that Vincent received included contributions from Yarmouth mayor Colleen Walker and Premier League manager David Moyes, who sent a lengthy letter. Although Mark was born in the borough of Yarmouth, he has been an Everton fan since boyhood.
'David Moyes praised my service and application and said he expected nothing less from an Evertonian,' said Mark.
He added: 'The club did me proud. I have always been proud to play for my home-town club. I have had opportunities to play for clubs in similar leagues but this is my home club. It's always been a well-run club. They have had good people on the committee. There have been lots of different managers but as long as the manager wanted me to play for the team then money was irrelevant.'
Mark began his Bloaters career in 1984-85 after being signed by Bill Punton but in the first two seasons only made around a dozen appearances. He was lured away to Diss by Punton and Paul Tong for a season after recovering from a broken leg, helping them to win the ECL Division One title and reach the FA Vase quarter-finals.
But he has devoted the rest of his career to the Bloaters and been honoured by testimonials against Norwich City, Rushden and Diamonds and Peterborough, to mark his 250th and 500th games.
Despite retiring on at least a couple of occasions, most recently at the end of the 2006-07 season, towering stopper Mark has been unable to kick the Yarmouth Town habit completely. Since being talked into playing a handful of first team games at the end of last season – including a derby game when he scored against old foes Gorleston – he hasn't looked back.
Mark, who was once one of Norfolk's leading squash players, has always believed in maintaining high fitness levels. But he is the first to concede that time waits for no-one. 'My legs aren't what they used to be and occasionally, if I'm honest, I can get caught for pace. But I think my positional sense gets me through things a lot of the time. Playing in central defence helps, I could stand there and talk until I am 100 and I can win headers all day long.'
Mark says his Yarmouth Town highlights have been reaching the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup in 1988 before losing to Dagenham at the Wellesley and winning the Norfolk Senior Cup at Carrow Road in 1990, as well as five other final appearances with the Bloaters. Mark, who is married to Tracy, and has two sons, Craig, 27, and Stuart, 25, is also player-manager for Belton-based Sunday team Bohemians and helped them reach the quarter-finals of the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup at the weekend. It is another youthful team, rather like the Bloaters, but there is always room for a wise old head.