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3 September 2007
Peter Vincenti made his first visit to the new Wembley Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
He went there with his landlord, former training ground manager Pat Jolly, to watch Rugby League's Carnegie Challenge Cup Final between St Helens and Catalan Dragons.
Having signed for Millwall a few days earlier, it was an opportunity for the Jersey-born 21-year-old - the product of a Scottish father and Manchester-raised mother - to do the tourist thing in his new surroundings.
Yet had it not been for impressing manager Willie Donachie in his three reserve games, Vincenti would have been on his way around the globe to do some more comprehensive sightseeing.
"I would have gone back home and worked for a year and then gone travelling," the player said.
"My mates are a bit annoyed because I've had to tell them that I can't go because of Millwall.
"We had a seven-stop ticket costing over £1000 with British Airways to go around the world - so that's been put on hold.
"We had put a £150 deposit down so I've lost that.
"We were planning to stop off at Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York before heading back home.
"Hopefully if I make it in football, which is what I want to do, it will be put on hold for a while, perhaps as long as fifteen years."
Football, which began purely as a working class pursuit, remains so on a playing level despite the steady gentrification of its followers.
Most footballers will tell you that had they not realised their ambitions they have no idea what they would have done. Some mutter that they could have ended up in a life of crime; others reckon they would have scraped by through undertaking dogsbody jobs.
Vincenti is a little bit different to that. Having graduated from his sixth form in the Channel Islands with B grades in English, Physical Education and Business Studies A-Levels, he studied Business Management and Sports Science at Liverpool University, gaining 2:1 honours.
Football was never the be all and end all, but it so happened that, as an attacking midfielder, Vincenti had a talent for making late runs in the box and getting his name on the scoresheet, particularly via his head.
Thus, for his final two years at De La Salle University Vincenti, all 6ft 3ins of him, would fly back to Jersey whenever he could and play for St Peters - the island's top team.
His efforts culminated in being named Jersey Player of the Year last term after bagging eighteen goals in seventeen games.
"Every young lad has the dream to be a professional footballer but I never thought about it too much," Vincenti said. "I just played football because I enjoyed it and never thought about it too much professionally.
"I never started playing properly until I was eighteen. I just played because I enjoyed playing football but towards the end of my teenage years I started taking it seriously.
"In my first year away I never travelled back. The standard was good at university but the pitches weren't that great. There were a lot of players who were schoolboys at clubs that came to university though.
"I made my friends in my first year at university and stuck with them for the rest of the three years. I started to fly back at weekends but it didn't take away the experience of being out there.
"People wouldn't believe me if I said we stayed in every night but nobody used to go out at weekends because it was full price for drinks!
"The drinking side of university is very much part of the experience but we never went over the top. Me and all of my friends came out with 2:1s.
"We had a good time but we worked hard as well."
The move to Millwall came off seamlessly for Vincenti. St Peters board member Brian Foulser recommended him to the club's away travel manager Billy Neill, who informed chief scout Pat Holland.
It was his first trial, and within a couple of weeks Donachie had handed Vincenti a contract until December 24.
Vincenti sees it as an extended loan. "I'm still on trial at the minute," he said. "My fitness and body strength is getting better but I've still got a long way to go.
"I've got to put the hard work in but they've given me an opportunity and hopefully I can show them what I can do.
"It's been great for me, I've been enjoying every minute and it's definitely something I want to carry on doing but I need to put the hard work in and get the full contract."
Vincenti realises he has his work cut out to make an impression at the Den. Football in Jersey is totally amateur, the players train only twice a week and when the national team tours England they face Non-League sides in the Dorset Cup and the likes of Cornwall in the South West Counties Cup.
The highest crowds are the 5000 who turn up to watch Jersey face arch-rivals Guernsey in the annual Muratti Vase.
Every two years as part of the Island Games - a mini-Olympics - Jersey face the likes of fellow British colonies Gibraltar, Minorca and Shetland - hardly football superpowers.
Yet Graeme Le Saux began his career at Jersey and Matt Le Tissier famously pledged his career to Southampton because of its proximity to his native Guernsey.
More contemporarily, Jersey striker Brett Pitman, a friend of Vincenti's, has made a promising start to his professional career at Bournemouth.
So perhaps Vincenti has a better chance of making it at Millwall than most English fans expect.
"The standard in Jersey is not that great," he said. "I played three games for the reserves while I was on trial and it's a lot faster than the games back home.
"But I enjoyed it and am looking forward to playing more. I'm an attacking midfielder who runs from deep and gets into the box late.
"I've not shown too much of that yet because, at the moment, I'm trying to find my feet and adapt to the pace of the game.
"Once I get my strength and fitness that will come. The manager's been helpful throughout, I've got until Christmas so I'm sure they'll be telling me certain things I need to do.
"If I haven't done something in training they'll tell me. The players move around a lot more over here so I've been told not to stay still when I pass it but to keep on moving."
Moving to pastures new is the last thing Vincenti wants right now, even though six short weeks ago he was looking forward to living out of a suitcase.
That, as Huey Lewis would have said if he was a Lion, is the power of Millwall.
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