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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
22 Apr 2023

Ryan Reynolds's Wrexham complete Hollywood ending with promotion into the Football League
Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney lift the Vanarama National League Trophy Credit: Getty Images /Matthew Ashton

In a season of eye-watering numbers, there is only one that matters: 110. That is Wrexham’s current points tally and one that makes them uncatchable at the top of the National League. Finally.

They did it, as has become their custom, the hard way, but eventually quality told. For, the 46th and 47th times this season, Paul Mullin was serenaded. His pair of second-half strikes sank Boreham Wood, sealing a come-from-behind 3-1 win. Plus, more. So much more.

They ensured – along with Elliot Lee’s leveller – that, after months of drama and a 15-year wait, Wrexham will return to the Football League, they have secured promotion to football’s most exclusive 92-member club.

This day has been anticipated since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney completed their February 2021 takeover. “I’m not sure I can actually process what happened tonight. I’m still a little speechless,” Reynolds told BT Sport. “The one thing running through my head over and over again is people said at the beginning ‘Why Wrexham? Why Wrexham?’. This is exactly why Wrexham, happening right now is why.”

The locals’ festivities began long before kick-off. Who can blame them? From lunchtime onwards red shirt after red shirt scuttled out of Wrexham General station, heading for the local watering holes. The lines for the Turf snaked from early afternoon. Paul Rudd, spotted in the former, surely queue jumped. Ant-Man was the hero of the bar, but Mullin superseded him rapidly. “I’d like to say that Paul Mullin is one of the greatest football players in the world,” McElhenney chimed in after Reynolds. And he meant it, too.

Ryan Reynolds's Wrexham complete Hollywood ending with promotion into the Football League
Paul Rudd is seen with Wrexham fans before the match at The Turf Pub Credit: Reuters/Ed Sykes

In the Maesgwyn they had earlier prayed for a Maidstone United favour. With Notts County three up after an hour, most turned away. They returned when the deficit became just one, but soon County had five. Few were surprised: “easy” is not a familiar word around here.  

Soon they moved to the ground, and the ground was moved by a rendition of Yma o Hyd. There were also several songs name-checking the owners. This marriage of seeming inconvenience between Hollywood and a working-class city thousands of miles away, works beautifully. No one quite knows how. It simply does.

There are cynics, what with Wrexham’s wage bill being, for this level, astronomical. That, though, does not wash here. And nor should it. Sweat, love and passion are all baked into the Racecourse Ground’s historic walls. But for supporter efforts, there would have been no club to buy.  

A football club that courses through generational veins is now back pumping blood to every corner of north Wales. “I think we can hear how it feels to the town and that’s what’s most important to us,” McElhenney. “For us to be welcomed into their community, and be welcomed into this experience, has been the honour of my life.” Again, he was being genuine.

This title was for Denis, a half-time draw ticket seller of over three decades. In the early 1960s, Denis shovelled snow off the pitch during his school lunch breaks. The draw will not run next season and he anticipates being ticketless. His nephew, Steve Watkin who scored the winner in Wrexham’s infamous 1992 FA Cup victory over Arsenal, rarely gets in. And so, Denis may not visit again.

It was for Neil Williams. Now part of the club’s in-house commentary team, in 2004/05 he collected signed shirts from each of the 92 Football League clubs, auctioned them at Sotheby’s and donated the funds to Wrexham. Even the word “promotion” had his lips quivering.  

Ryan Reynolds's Wrexham complete Hollywood ending with promotion into the Football League
Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds (right) celebrate on the final whistle Credit: AFP/Oli Scarff
Ryan Reynolds's Wrexham complete Hollywood ending with promotion into the Football League
Luke Young (C) lifts the National League trophy as players and staff celebrate on the pitch Credit: AFP/Oli Scarff
Ryan Reynolds's Wrexham complete Hollywood ending with promotion into the Football League
Wrexham's fans celebrate on the pitch Credit: Getty Images/Oli Scarff

And it was for the countless souls watching from above, including Kenny Pemberton and his infamous pink taxi.

The final whistle was met with a release of pure joy, the kind only football can stir. In the stands, tears were shed, proper hugs were shared. Not cursory exchanges, but the type that relay deep, yet wordless, feelings.

Several thousand ignored the pre-match instructions not to invade the pitch. First, they headed for the dugouts, before turning in their droves to the opposite side of the pitch. From there, they gazed up at Reynolds and McElhenney in their suite. It was both a mutual sharing of the moment, while simultaneously symbolic of the complete detachment from reality that is Wrexham’s present.

“It’s a bit of a blur,” admitted manager Phil Parkinson. “Those moments can be a bit surreal. Has this really happened? It’s a mixture of emotion and relief as well. But just seeing the passion, the happiness in our supporters’ faces.

“Everyone knows now that it is 15 years outside the league, and the journey that the club has been on throughout those 15 years has been torturous at times. The club nearly going out of business, the owners coming in and what they’ve done. There’s a positivity in the town about the football club, and how the players, the staff, have galvanised that has been very special. I genuinely feel this is just the start of the journey.”  

What comes next? “Party definitely,” was Parkinson’s response. “We’ve got the job done, and it’s very important that we celebrate. We will. I think Wrexham will be mad tonight, and hopefully I’ll be in the middle of it at some point!”

The sun has not always shone on Wrexham. And there is no guarantee it will do so forever. But right now, despite the Saturday evening drizzle, its rays cover the city. And doubtless a fair few will be awake to watch its Sunday rising.

Prince William: 'Doing Wales proud'

The Prince of Wales congratulated Wrexham on getting promoted to the Football League after a 15-year absence.

In a personal message after the match, William, who is president of the FA, said: "Congratulations @Wrexham-AFC! A club with such amazing history, looking forward to a very exciting future back in the Football League. Doing Wales proud. W".

Wrexham players were seen spraying champagne and singing in the changing room after the match in celebration.

Reynolds and McElhenney were joined by Paul Rudd in their executive seating area as they celebrated Wrexham's title and promotion.

Ant-Man star Rudd was seen drinking beer and singing songs with fans at the Turf next to the town's Racecourse Ground before the match.

Paul Novielli, a fan from Kentucky in the US on his fourth trip to Wrexham, took a selfie with Rudd and Sandy, a fan from Canada, at the Turf and described the actor as "super nice".

Mr Novielli, who runs a podcast called Up The Town dedicated to Wrexham AFC, said Rudd joined in with songs including Super Paul Mullin and Allez Allez Allez at the pub as he shared drinks with fans.

Formed in 1864, Wrexham are the oldest club in Wales and the third oldest professional football team in the world.

The club spent 15 consecutive seasons in the National League - the fifth division of the English football system- but will be playing in League Two next season.