Outside The Box: All bets are off even if you're in a non-league of your own


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The Independent Football

With Fleetwood Town and Wrexham so far ahead of the rest in the Blue Square Bet Premier, it would clearly be unjust if one of them missed out on promotion to the Football League. But as we know from the history of play-offs, it could easily happen.

After yesterday's games Fleetwood have 95 points and Wrexham 86 with two games in hand, but only one will be promoted automatically; which of them that it may be decided when they meet at Fleetwood on 10 April. Mansfield Town, in third place, are 24 points behind the leaders after losing 2-0 to them yesterday. The nearest comparable example concerns Hereford United, who in 2004 finished 17 points ahead of local rivals Shrewsbury Town but then lost to fifth-placed Aldershot on penalties in the play-off semi-final because away goals didn't count. In the League, Ipswich Town felt hard done by after finishing third in the Championship in 2005, 12 points ahead of West Ham, only to lose to them in the semi-final with two goals by Bobby Zamora, who also scored in the final to win promotion.

Don't draw Vale over Sproson

The six parties allegedly interested in buying Port Vale, who are now in administration, will doubtless be a little alarmed if their due diligence goes deep enough to discover that the club's squad includes a 52-year-old; No 50 is Phil Sproson, who turned out more than 500 times for them in the Eighties and is nephew of Vale legend Roy Sproson, holder of the club's appearance record with 842 games. Vale Supporters' Club paid for young Phil to have a squad number on the basis that it was good to have a Sproson around. "I don't think I'll get a game, maybe just come on for a corner or two," he said. But if the present crisis continues, who knows?

Subbuteo on a winning streak

Football fans of a certain age can relive their youth at Hamleys toy store in London on Tuesday when Subbuteo is revived after a 15-year break from production. Patented in 1947, the game now includes such modern accoutrements as streakers while players are made of durable rubber rather than the plastic or cardboard that meant serious damage if inadvertently knelt upon. The Table Football World Cup will be held at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium in July with Subbuteo as a sponsor.

The only way is back in time

Anyone who remembers Chelmsford City reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the past two seasons must have been intrigued by last week's news that as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Chelmsford is to become, er, a city. So were club officials not a little ahead of themselves to have come up with the present name back in 1938? Apparently the chairman and vice-chairman at the time were under the impression that it already was a city as it had a cathedral. Not so. Essex rivals Colchester and Southend were among 22 "towns" piqued to have been passed over for the honour last week. Other clubs who could have adopted a City tag if chosen included Reading, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough. They wouldn't sound right, though, which may be why Preston, Wolves and Brighton stuck with their appendages after being awarded city status earlier in the decade. It took some of us a while to adapt to Swansea Town becoming Swansea City after being honoured back in 1969, to mark Prince Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales.

One thing Leeds to another

In the aftermath of Leeds United's 7-3 home defeat by Nottingham Forest last Tuesday, the question was asked in the press room if anyone – other than Leeds – had ever scored seven at Elland Road. After much stroking of chins and furrowing of brows an answer was found: "Hunslet". The rugby league club shared the venue in the 1980s.