It was a true Hollywood ending. Wrexham AFC are returning to the Football League after a 15 year exile. Their star owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney were there to see the club they bought in 2021 crowned champions of the National League.
Season two of Welcome to Wrexham will prove even more compelling viewing than the debut one.
I can honestly say that I saw Wrexham in its historic promotion-winning season. I took my 14 year old son Owen to see the team play Maidenhead United last month. It was a gripping encounter that ended with the Berkshire team snatching a last-gasp draw. It showed how Hollywood money was no guarantee of success – Maidenhead battled all the way, and Wrexham lost two vital points.
We were standing right by the touchline, and had an amazing view, especially when Maidenhead’s number 7 Sam Barrett took a throw late on. I wonder if we will feature in Welcome to Wrexham?
Four Welsh Football League clubs again
When I was growing up, there were four Welsh clubs in the English football league: my club, Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County and Wrexham. Newport were always on the brink of extinction – in the 1970s, Manchester United played a combined South Wales team to raise money to save County – and succumbed in the late 1980s. Wrexham joined them in the National League in 2008, leaving just the big city clubs left in the EFL. A decade ago, Newport beat Wrexham in the National League playoff final to become a league club again. As I pointed out at the time, this was surely the only time a playoff to enter the Football League had been contested by two former quarter finalists from a European competition. (Wrexham and Newport competed in European Cup Winners Cup quarter finals in the 1970s and 1980s)
Football fans tend to be tribal. Cardiff City and Swansea City fans have a brutal rivalry, for example. I’ve always been different. I cheered Wrexham and Newport on their European odysseys, and was delighted when Swansea briefly led the old First Division in 1981/82.
I spent most Saturdays in the 1970s at Ninian Park, and was thrilled by City’s promotion to the Second Division in 1976. The following season Cardiff knocked First Division Tottenham Hotspur out of the FA Cup, and faced Wrexham in the next round.
That game showed how sport could prove the greatest theatre on the planet. City were cruising to an easy 2-0 win when Wrexham snatched two late goals to level the tie. Just as it looked like we were heading for a replay John Buchanan scored a stunning winner. (We narrowly lost to First Division Everton in the next round.)
I still revel in those childhood memories. Anyone who was at the Racecourse this weekend witnessing Wrexham ending 15 years of exile will similarly replay the experience for the rest of their lives – including Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Ryan was pitch-perfect in his comments after the game, praising Boreham Wood, and hoping that magnificent rivals Notts County join Wrexham in League Two next season. They deserve no less after a season that followed Hollywood’s script.