Wrexham fans will likely be singing into the night, serenading their famous owners in the process, because the wait for promotion is finally over.
On a raucous evening at the Racecourse, and with Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney – the actors who have transformed the club since their 2021 takeover – in the stadium, Wrexham secured promotion to the Football League after a 15-year absence.
“I’m not sure I can actually process what happened tonight, I’m still a little speechless,” Reynolds told reporters after the game.
“One thing that’s running through my head over and over again was at the beginning, people said ‘Why Wrexham, why Wrexham’; this is exactly why Wrexham, what’s happening right now, is why.”
Once the referee blew his whistle, a come-from-behind 3-1 win against promotion-chasing Boreham Wood secured, thousands of fans raced onto the pitch, the victorious players disappearing in the red mist as fans lit flares, waved banners, and lost themselves in the moment. Television cameras showed McElhenney shedding a tear.
“I think we can hear how it feels to the town and that’s what’s most important for us – I think this is a moment of catharsis for them,” McElhenney said.
“For us to be welcomed into their community and to be welcomed into this experience has been the moment of my life.”
It will be said that this was a tale made in Hollywood, but the truth is the story was always here, waiting for Hollywood. The historic small town club saved from the brink by its fans, once in the higher echelons of the English football league system only to tumble into the National League, its fortunes taking a downturn both on and off the pitch.
But then came Reynolds and McElhenney and Hollywood did what it does best, adding stardust and hope to create a magical conclusion to what is the end of a chapter, not the story.
Wrexham will next season compete in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league. Three further promotions and they will be in English Premier League; easy to write, much harder to achieve.
A team with global appeal
Hours before kick-off, the sound of tooting horns and singing fans could be heard near the stadium. The atmosphere building for a kickoff which had been moved to later in the day so it could be broadcast live on TV.
There was no mistaking the significance of the occasion: win and the championship would be Wrexham’s and a first promotion since it was relegated to the National League in April 2008.
But the team had been here before, and failed. There was optimism – this team has only lost three times this campaign and dropped just two points at home – but also some uncertainty. Seeds of doubt are hard to rid after years of near misses.
Fans descended to the city in numbers, hotels were booked up for the night, pubs were overflowing, and there were film stars in attendance too, as is often the case these days.
Accompanying Reynolds and McElhenney for this promotion-clinching match was Paul Rudd, star of Marvel’s “Ant-Man.”
He had been pictured in the Turf, a pub near the ground, before the match, the latest Hollywood star to visit the bar which regularly features in “Welcome to Wrexham” – the TV documentary which follows the actors’ first season in charge.
Lifelong fans will often shake their heads in disbelief when asked about the impact the owners and their show have had on the club and the city. That this Welsh city is now recognized globally is a source of amusement and bemusement.
The documentary seems to have captured the imaginations of many, with Americans especially seemingly having fallen for a club which is the beating heart of its community.
New Wrexham fans, from Ohio, Los Angeles, Washington and Arizona, had come to Wales this week; some had tickets, some just wanted to be in the city to see for themselves what they had watched on TV.
The club’s worldwide appeal can be measured in merchandise sales, 80% of which this season has been in global sales, the club says. By December, the club had sold out of shirts – 24,000 home, away and third strips snapped up. It is unprecedented. Needless to say, a bigger order has been put in for next season.
What next for Wrexham? The competition in League Two will be tougher, but arguably the aim – promotion to League One – might be an easier challenge than the one the club faced this season as three teams are automatically promoted from League Two, instead of the one automatic promotion spot on offer in the National League.
In Phil Parkinson, in charge of the team since the summer of 2021, the club already has a seasoned manager, one who has now enjoyed four promotions in his career, as well as several players already accustomed to playing in the Football League.
“It’s a massive moment for this football club – from the owners all the way down to the supporters who have followed this club over the last 15 years in some really tough times, and I’m pleased for every single one of them,” Parkinson said.
Paul Mullin, the star striker who has been integral to the team’s resurgence and who McElhenney called “one of the greatest football players in the world,” will likely be a key player next season too. He scored twice, the first a special curling effort which put the home team 2-1 ahead and a 71st-minute strike which all but secured the win sparked wild celebrations.
“All the shenanigans that comes with playing for Wrexham – to deal with it the way we have and obviously to come back from one down tonight is unbelievable and we love what we’ve done,” he said.
“The fans deserved this – I think after the first minute, they were all fearing the worst but you know, we stick together… no matter what’s been thrown at us.”
The records broken this season – with a game remaining the club has already broken the record for most goals and points in National League history – suggests Wrexham will be more than capable of being competitive next season.
When Reynolds and McElhenney took ownership of the club in February 2021 few could have imagined the impact the pair would make. The story, and the dream, continues.