Racecourse, Wrexham (CNN) Wrexham fans will likely sing into the night, serenading their famous owners in the process, as the wait for promotion is finally over.
On a raucous night at the racecourse, and with Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney – the actors who have transformed the club since taking over in 2021 – in the stadium, Wrexham secured promotion to the Football League after 15 years away.
“I’m not sure I can understand what happened tonight, I’m still a bit speechless,” Reynolds told reporters after the game.
“One thing that’s stuck in my head over and over again is at the start, people were saying ‘Why Wrexham, why Wrexham’; that’s exactly why Wrexham, what’s going on right now, is why.”
Once the referee whistled a 3-1 win over promotion chaser Boreham Wood was secured, thousands of fans ran onto the pitch with the victorious players disappearing into the red haze as fans lit rockets lights, waved banners and got lost in the moment. Television cameras showed McElhenney shedding a tear.
“I think we can hear how the city feels and that’s what’s most important to us – I think it’s a catharsis moment for them,” McElhenney said.
“For us to be welcomed into their community and to be welcomed into this experience has been the time of my life.”
He added that the team’s striker Paul Mullin was “one of the greatest football players in the world”.
It will be said that it was a tale made in Hollywood, but the truth is that the story was always there, waiting for Hollywood. The historic small-town club was rescued from the brink by its fans, once through the upper echelons of the English football league system only to fall into the National League, its fortunes collapsing both on and in outside the field.
But then Reynolds and McElhenney and Hollywood did what they do best, adding stardust and hoping to create a magical conclusion to what is the end of a chapter, not the story.
Wrexham will compete next season in League 2, the fourth tier of the English football league. Three more promotions and they will be in the English Premier League; easy to write, much harder to perform.
A team with global appeal
Hours before kick-off, the sound of honking and chanting fans could be heard near the stadium. The mood building for a kickoff that had been moved to later in the day so it could be shown live on TV.
There was no doubting the significance of the occasion: win and the Championship would be Wrexham’s and their first promotion since being relegated to the National League in April 2008.
But the team had been here before and failed. There was optimism – this side have lost just three times this campaign and dropped just two points at home – but also some uncertainty. Seeds of doubt are hard to weed out after years of near misses.
Fans descended on the town in droves, hotels were full for the night, pubs were overflowing and there were movie stars too, as is often the case these days.
Paul Rudd, star of Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’, accompanied Reynolds and McElhenney for this decisive match for the promotion.
He had been pictured in the Turf, a near-ground pub, before the game, the latest Hollywood star to visit the bar who features regularly in ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ – the Disney+ documentary following the cast’s first season in charge.
Longtime fans 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 town is now world renowned is a source of amusement and perplexity.
The documentary seems to have captured the imagination of many, with Americans in particular seeming to have fallen in love with a club that is the beating heart of its community.
Fans from New Wrexham, Ohio, Los Angeles, Washington and Arizona came to Wales this week; some had tickets, some just wanted to be in town to see for themselves what they had watched on TV.
The club’s global appeal can be measured by merchandise sales, 80% of which this season have been global sales, according to the club. By December, the club had sold out their shirts – 24,000 home, away and third shirts. It is unprecedented. Needless to say a larger order has been placed for next season.
What future for Wrexham? Competing in Ligue 2 will be more difficult, but arguably the objective – promotion to Ligue 1 – could be an easier challenge than the one the club has faced this season, as three teams are automatically promoted from Ligue 2, instead of automatic promotion. place offered in the National League.
In Phil Parkinson, at the helm of the team since the summer of 2021, the club already has a seasoned coach, the one who has now benefited from four promotions in his career, as well as several players already used to playing in the Football League.
“It’s a huge moment for this football club – from the owners to the supporters who have followed this club for the past 15 years through very difficult times, and I’m happy for all of them,” Parkinson said. .
Mullin, the star striker who has been integral to the team’s resurgence, will likely also be a key player next season. He scored twice, the first a curling special effort that gave the home side a 2-1 lead and a 71st-minute strike that almost secured the victory sparked wild celebrations.
“All the shenanigans that come with playing for Wrexham – handling this the way we did and obviously coming back from a point tonight is amazing and we love what we’ve done,” he said.
“The fans deserved it – I think after the first minute they were all fearing the worst but you know we stick together… no matter what is thrown at us.”
The records broken this season – with one game remaining, the club have already broken the record for most goals and points in National League history – suggest 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 have. The story and the dream continue.