It was a simple moment, a tiny measure of time that brought ecstasy and closure. Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney could have easily got in the way. Many would have. But no, as Ben Tozer and Luke Young lifted the National League trophy, Wrexham’s Hollywood owners excelled. Then they bounced up and down gleefully like the supporters they are, unbridled glee at sealing a return to the Football League – exactly 15 years since the club left their cellar door.
With that inaction, my already wavering cynicism completely melted away. These two get it. They understand. They know this isn’t their script: They came in as supporting actors, albeit with significant speaking parts.
Look, nurturing healthy reserves is rarely a bad way to go about life, particularly in football matters. Pre-season tour in the USA? A marketing ploy. Misleading ditties about McElhenney’s pronunciation? More “soccer” than “soccer”. They cut and run once viewers get tired Welcome to Wrexham? It’s possible.
That negative mindset arises from the surrounding examples of mismanagement leading to extinction. An hour’s drive from the racecourse are Bury AFC and Macclesfield FC, Phoenicians fighting to preserve a rich and dense history. Just last Tuesday, people in Wrexham saw Yeovil Town, a ten-year-old Championship club, relegated to regional football.
Then there is the Yankee/Canadian dollar. It could be argued – indeed, I argued – that by missing out on promotion last season, Wrexham failed. If you’re going to buy the championship, you have to do it the first time, right? I looked at Paul Mullin, promoted from League Two with Cambridge United as Golden Boot winner two years ago, and laughed at him. There’s only one reason it should fall. I felt the same way about others who joined him. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Mullin will, of course, be paid handsomely, although with 47 goals and tallies he is providing value. But while he probably joined for one thing, he wasn’t into cash. No, it was Wrexham. Wonderful, moving Wrexham.
A brilliant example of opposites attracting. One club, one city, on one knee. She just needed some convincing, some support. Reynolds and McElhenney provided it in abundance. “They’re fantastic, they love it,” says former England goalkeeper Ben Foster. “I am fully in. They enter and celebrate, they get behind the boys. They understand that you won’t always win.
“People think they’re just two famous guys who bought a club,” adds Elliot Lee, a League One regular at Charlton last season. “Recently though, I think people have started to see how much they love him. No matter what you need, I’m always there for the guys. When you have owners like that, it’s incredible.”
Reynolds himself had just stormed the press conference, demanding the “jersey” from each of their shoulders. It was a small taste of Wrexham’s everyday eccentricity. According to Foster, Reynolds had texted him before the game insisting that his shirt shouldn’t be given away. That instruction cannot be ignored.
“They brought together a whole community,” Lee says. “The feeling around the place, at the club, is just amazing.” And that, in a nutshell, is it. It is a saved community. The surrounding businesses not only survive, they thrive. The local sponsors were retained, along with the new big hits. The ground was repurchased by Glyndwr University and the derelict Kop demolished.
A gleaming new stand will be erected by 2024-25, a grant through the Wrexham Gateway scheme which was secured last week. The not so remotely reformed women’s team recently sealed promotion to the Welsh top flight. They went, in US parlance, 12 and 0, with their last league match played in front of a record crowd for women’s national football in Wales.
So, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. McElhenney, I’m sorry I doubted you. It won’t happen again.