ON THE ROAD: A sprinkle of Hollywood glitz… but this was a party Wrexham style! Owners lap up promotion party as their magical connection with town ensures the place is alive
- Wrexham secured promotion to the Football League by beating Boreham Wood
- The Welsh side have now ended their 15-year exodus in Non-League football
- There were jubilant scenes following the referee’s full-time whistle on Saturday
The mural on the gable end wall of a terraced house in Crispin Lane, two minutes from the football ground, was the most eye-catching sign of Wrexham’s new fame.
‘Welcome to Wrexham’ it proclaimed, and the women walking their dogs in front of it before the team went in search of the three points needed for promotion testified to the way that the town has discovered itself again.
‘I just think it’s other people coming in and seeing our place for what it is,’ said Clare Johnson. ‘The outside perspective has been so good for us.’
The town had so much that is smart and innovative before Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds were voted in as owners in 2020.
The Wrexham Lager brewery had seen its sales soar in lockdown as it teamed up with Bootlegger, the Wrexham fan whose YouTube videos have made him an internet sensation.
There was an enormous party as Wrexham confirmed their promotion on Saturday
Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds looked delighted as they lifted the trophy
Wrexham Revival Trainers, the hit store at the Ty Pawb market, where worn-out trainers are transformed, was starting out. The beautiful Miners Rescue cafe had established itself on Maesgwyn Road. It was saved from bulldozers to become a place commemorating 266 miners – many of them Wrexham fans — who died in the 1934 Gresford pit disaster.
None of these places has featured hugely in the story of Wrexham that McElhenney and Reynolds have told so far, but they all have more of a spring in their step because of it.
Wrexham won promotion because of the way McElhenney and Reynolds have funded the club. A lucrative TikTok sponsorship deal they personally secured helped pay for stars like Paul Mullin, Elliot Lee and Ben Tozer. Under the executive direction of Shaun Harvey they bought boldly. The strategy has paid off.
But the more significant story is how the owners have connected with Wrexham on a community level. They follow some of those at the heart of the place on Twitter. Their support for Go Fund Me campaigns has led to local people supporting local people far more. Their tone is unerringly self-deprecating. Reynolds, in particular, was concerned the look might be: ‘Two Hollywood assholes come in and save a town.’ They have guarded against that.
Nothing quite prepared them for the embrace of a town which had lost some confidence amid a cost-of-living crisis and broken promises that there would be a ‘levelling up’ though.
The American owners were present on what was a sensational night for the club
Local singer, poet and songwriter Michael ‘Scoot’ Hett wrote what has become a terrace anthem, Always Sunny in Wrexham, referencing the town’s struggle with the Spice opiod a number of years ago.
‘Less than a mile from the centre of town, famous old stadium tumbling down, no one gave so much as a penny, bring on the Deadpool and Rob McElhenney.’
This rocked the stadium, as always, before kick-off. Three years ago, Hett and his band Declan Swans were singing at pubs and fundraisers in the club’s Centenary Suite, trying to get a party started. Now they have a strong US following, have put their work to vinyl and will support Kings of Leon when they play The Racecourse this summer.
‘The first time the owners came over, Ryan shared one of our videos on TikTok,’ Hett said. ‘It had had just over 1,000 views before he posted it, but it’s now been seen by over 18 million people. Unbelievable really.’
The US dimension is the really extraordinary part. McElhenney and Reynolds’ Welcome to Wrexham documentary brought thousands of Americans here, with Californian Cherie Franczak happy to be in the town on Saturday, enjoying the promotion party with her husband, despite not managing to find a ticket.
‘I loved the warmth of the community I saw on the show and wanted to be a part of it,’ she said.
As the long hours to kick-off were filled, some in Wrexham worried about the high-profile build-up, which had brought national breakfast TV crews and CNN to town.
Supporters celebrate after the club sealed their Football League return on Saturday night
They remembered some of the worst days of 15 years in non-League and wondered if all this was tempting fate. At the Wrexham Lager brewery, they prepared labels for a new ‘Champions’ brew, which will go on sale this week. ‘Don’t share we’ve planned it,’ said sales manager Joss Roberts on Friday. ‘We don’t want to jinx it.’
There was no jinx. Though the stadium was silenced by Boreham Wood’s Lee Ndlovu seizing on Tozer’s error to score inside 43 seconds, Lee headed an equaliser from Ryan Barnett’s cross.
The stage was set for Mullin, the totemic footballing figure for McElhenney and Reynolds, who scored two fine second-half goals.
After next weekend’s game at Torquay, McElhenney and Reynolds will fly the squad out to Las Vegas but at 2am on Sunday, Mullin was just happy to be singing with fans in McDonald’s on Regent Street.
Clare Johnson, the owner of the dogs, was not there to see the game. Tickets have become impossible to acquire, but she lives a few streets away and could hear what was unfolding.
‘We didn’t get any of that for years,’ she said. ‘But now the place is alive again.’
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