Wrexham were promoted to the Football League after a 15-year absence at the stadium — with actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny who have transformed the club since taking over in 2021 — in a raucous evening at the racecourse.
“I’m not sure I can really process what happened tonight, I’m still a little speechless,” Reynolds told reporters after the game.
“There was one thing that kept running through my head at the beginning, people saying ‘Why Wrexham, why Wrexham’; Wrexham, what’s happening now, that’s why.”
As soon as the referee blew the whistle for a 3-1 win against promotion-chasing Boreham Wood, thousands of fans ran onto the pitch, the victorious players disappearing in a red mist. They lost themselves in the moment. Television cameras showed McClenny breaking down in tears.
“I think we can hear how the city feels, and that’s what’s most important to us — I think it’s a moment of catharsis for them,” McClenny said.
“For us to be welcomed into their community and to be welcomed into this experience is the moment of my life.”
He said the team’s striker Paul Mullin was “one of the best footballers in the world”.
They say it’s a story made in Hollywood, but the truth is, a story waiting for Hollywood was always here. The historic small-town club was rescued from the brink by its fans, once relegated to the National League, the top tier of the English football league system, and its fortunes plummeted both on and off the pitch.
But then Reynolds and McElhenney and Hollywood did it better, adding stardust to create a magical conclusion to what was the end of an episode, not the story.
Wrexham will compete in League Two, the fourth tier of the English Football League next season. Three more promotions and they’ll be in the English Premier League; Easy to write, very difficult to achieve.
A group with global appeal
A few hours before kick-off, the sound of tooting horns and chanting of fans could be heard near the stadium. The build-up to the kickoff was moved to the afternoon to be broadcast live on TV.
There’s no mistaking the significance of the occasion: the win and the championship was Wrexham’s first promotion since they were relegated to the National League in April 2008.
But the team has come here before and failed. There was hope — the team had lost just three times this campaign and dropped just two points at home — but there was also some uncertainty. The seeds of doubt are hard to dislodge after years of missing out.
Fans descended on the city in droves, hotels were booked for the night, pubs were packed and, as is often the case these days, movie stars were in attendance.
Reynolds and McElhenney were joined by Marvel’s “And-Man” star Paul Rudd in this promotion-clinching bout.
Before the match, he was photographed at the Turf, a pub near the stadium, the latest Hollywood star to visit the bar that was regularly featured in “Welcome to Wrexham” — a Disney+ documentary following the cast’s first season.
Lifelong fans often shake their heads in disbelief when hearing about the owners and the impact their program has had on the club and city. It is a source of amusement and delight that this Welsh city is now recognized worldwide.
The documentary seems to have captured the imaginations of many, Americans especially who seem to have fallen for a club that is the beating heart of its society.
New Wrexham fans arrived in Wales this week from Ohio, Los Angeles, Washington and Arizona; Some had tickets, some wanted to stay in town to see for themselves what they saw on TV.
The club’s global appeal can be measured in merchandise sales, of which the club says 80% are from global sales this season. By December, the club shirts had sold out — 24,000 home, away and third pieces had been snapped up. This is unprecedented. Needless to say, a tall order has been placed for next season.
What’s next for Wrexham? Competition in League Two will be tough, but promotion to League One — perhaps an easier challenge than the club faced this season — could be three teams automatically promoted from League Two instead of one. Chances are in the National League.
In Phil Parkinson, in charge of the team from the summer of 2021, the club already has an experienced manager who has now enjoyed four promotions in his career, as well as a number of players already playing in the Football League.
“This is a tremendous moment for this football club — from the owners to the supporters who have followed the club through some difficult times over the past 15 years, I am delighted for each and every one of them.” Parkinson said.
A star striker integral to the team’s resurgence, Mullin will be a key player next season. He scored twice, the first a superb curling effort that put the home side 2–1 up and a 71st-minute strike sealed victory.
“All the treachery that comes with playing for Wrexham — to deal with it the way we have and obviously to come back from one down tonight is incredible and we love what we’ve done,” he said.
“The fans deserve it — after the first minute, I think they all fear the worst, but you know, we’re in this together…no matter what’s thrown at us.”
The records broken this season — with one 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 competing next season.
When Reynolds and McElhenny took ownership of the club in February 2021, few could have imagined the impact the pair would have. The story and the dream continue.