Outside the Box: Rock-solid Gibraltar have Spain quaking in their boots

So where would England's players, supporters and media rather be going this week: Montenegro or Gibraltar? Playing the latter could conceivably happen in the next European Championship. On the same day in 2007 when Uefa delegates voted for Montenegro to become full members, they decisively rejected Gibraltar – only England, Scotland and Wales wanting them. Now the Rock, population 30,000 (about the same as San Marino) but spread over only 2.6 square miles, is to apply again at Uefa's London congress in May, having already been granted provisional membership. Officials from Gibraltar's governing body flew to London on Wednesday to meet Football Association representatives, though they will again have to overcome objections from Spain, who last time threatened to boycott any competition in which they took part. The Spanish have long memories: the island was captured from them in 1704 and ceded to Britain in 1713. Gibraltar has retained strong footballing links with Britain, playing teams such as Bury, Notts County and Portsmouth last year (beating all three) as well as the Isle of Wight and Anglesey.

Pope tears off a strip

Imaginative thinking from Port Vale to drum up support ahead of the League Two promotion six-pointer and Staffordshire derby against Burton Albion on Friday week: Vale's last promotion came in 1993-94, and to try to recreate the mood, the club's new owner, Paul Wildes, has promised that ticket prices and refreshments (including beer) will be at 1994 prices. The pre-match music will also be from the spring of '94, when "Everything Changes" by Take That, featuring Vale fan Robbie Williams, went to No 1. One of 5,000 Vale fans at Brighton when they sealed automatic promotion that year was the father of Vale's top scorer, Tom Pope, who in the ensuing pitch invasion had the shirt off striker David Lowe's back. It ended up on the wall of Pope Jnr, who until recently was the country's leading scorer.

Fragile status like Glass

The other end of the League Two table has the makings of the closest finish since Jimmy Glass, Carlisle's on-loan goalkeeper, scored a winning goal in the last minute of the 1998-99 season to avoid relegation from the League. But even then there were only two teams in danger; last week started with no fewer than five teams all on 40 points, and York City a single point ahead. Four of the five – Accrington, Barnet, Plymouth and Torquay – then played their game in hand last Tuesday, and all won, leaving Aldershot bottom of the pile. In yesterday's 40th game, Accrington and York were both beaten, while Plymouth and Aldershot were postponed.

Fixtures aren't fitting

Newport County are furious that their hopes of rejoining the League after 25 years' absence are being handicapped by fixture congestion. Yesterday's defeat at Stockport would have been one of four in seven days, three of them up north, until the match against Gateshead two days earlier was postponed again. County want the season extended, but Conference officials say that cannot be done as Wembley is booked for the play-off final. Newport now face 11 games in a month and their manager, Justin Edinburgh, the former Spurs full-back, says there has been "no consideration for the players' safety and health, or for the fans – but whenever we've tried to work with the Conference they've been totally against us." As Gateshead cannot use their own ground, the Newport match rearranged for Thursday will be at Boston, a round trip for the "home" side of some 300 miles.


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