Wrexham now just two wins away from another Hollywood promotion finale

Celebrity owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney may be about to see season three of Welcome to Wrexham get the perfect finale with the Red Dragons only two wins away from another promotion

Luke Baker
Wednesday 10 April 2024 08:44 BST
Ryan Reynolds’ kids are ‘obsessed’ with Wrexham AFC

Not since the 2004-2005 season have Wrexham played in the third tier of English football but, powered by celebrity owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney and with the Welcome to Wrexham documentary cameras following their every step, north Wales’s biggest club may be about to end that drought.

They have three games remaining in the League Two season and know that two wins will be enough to guarantee League One football coming to the STōK Cae Ras next season. From there it’s ‘only’ two more promotions to the Premier League...

The investment of Reynolds and McElhenney, the management of Phil Parkinson and the goals of ‘Super’ Paul Mullin have fired Wrexham out of the doldrums and they’re now tantalisingly close to achieving another target, as well as providing the perfect ending to season three of Welcome to Wrexham.

Permutations: What do Wrexham need to get promoted?

While the National League – the division from which the Red Dragons spent the first two seasons of Welcome to Wrexham desperately fighting to get out of – has just two promotion spots, League Two offers three automatic promotion places before the clubs finishing from fourth to seventh compete for an additional slot via the play-offs.

Wrexham currently lie second in the table, having played 43 of their 46 games, and only need to secure a top-three finish to seal promotion.

League Two table as of 10 April, 2024
League Two table as of 10 April, 2024 (EFL.com)

As it stands, Stockport County are top of the table on 83 points, four clear of Wrexham and with a game in hand, making them overwhelming favourites to win the title.

But it’s the teams in third and fourth that the Red Dragons will be more concerned with.

After a thumping victory at home to Crawley Town on Tuesday night (with star striker Paul Mullin scoring twice in a 4-1 win), Wrexham are second on 79 points from 43 games, Mansfield Town lie third with 76 points from 42 games and MK Dons are third with 74 points from 43 games.

That means MK Dons can end the campaign with a maximum tally of 83 points and Mansfield can reach 88 – if both were to win all their remaining matches – but because they play each other on Saturday 13 April, at least one will drop points.

Wrexham’s remaining League Two matches

13 April - Forest Green (H)

20 April - Crewe Alexandra (A)

27 April - Stockport County (H)

As Parkinson’s side only need to be in the top three for promotion, the Dons’s potential tally of 83 points is the relevant one, meaning 84 points is the magic number for Wrexham to guarantee finishing above at least one of them and sealing a top-three place.

That means Wrexham need five points from their final three matches, so two wins (or one win and two draws) will secure promotion for the Red Dragons and get them back into League One after two decades away.

Wrexham would be promoted on Saturday if they beat Forest Green Rovers, and MK Dons and Barrow fail to win against Mansfield and Gillingham respectively.

How have they got here?

The story of Wrexham’s climb back into the Football League following investment from Reynolds and McElhenney is well-documented across the first two series of Welcome to Wrexham. After a heartbreaking play-off defeat in the first campaign, they held off Notts County in a thrilling title race last year to win the National League and finally end a 15-year spell stuck in non-league.

Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds celebrated Wrexham’s promotion last April
Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds celebrated Wrexham’s promotion last April (Getty Images)

Expectations were high heading into the 2023-24 season, with the prospect of back-to-back promotions on the cards. After an opening-day 5-3 defeat to MK Dons, Wrexham went on a brilliant run to surge to the top of the League Two table. They lost just two of their next 22 league games before finally slipping to a 3-1 defeat away to Walsall on 29 December.

Unfortunately, that ushered in a first sustained run of poor form of the season as they lost three games in a row as the calendar flipped to February – going down to Newport County, Salford City and Bradford City. However, Parkinson and co. have righted the ship to win five of their last eight games and leave promotion in their own hands heading into this final stretch.

Despite a punctured lung suffered during a pre-season match against Manchester United causing him to miss the first month of the season, Mullin has once again been Wrexham’s goalscoring star, bagging 21 in the league. Elliot Lee has also chipped in with 15 goals, while Arsenal loanee Arthur Okonkwo has been brilliant in goal, keeping 12 clean sheets.

Why Wrexham? The story so far

Wrexham’s rise from National League obscurity to one of the most talked-about teams in English football owes so much to the investment of Reynolds and McElhenney – even if the thought of two Hollywood stars owning a fifth-tier football club from north Wales would have been preposterous just a few years ago.

The question that often gets asked is ‘why Wrexham’? It’s a long story – best told over the first two series of Welcome to Wrexham – but it starts with British comedy writer and actor Humphrey Ker watching football during his lunch breaks while working on McElhenney’s show Mythic Quest.

McElhenney became hooked on the sport, decided he wanted to invest in a football club and then set about deciding which club to target from a list of down-on-their-luck teams who had growth potential, drawn up by Ker. He settled on Wrexham because of its still-passionate fanbase and huge catchment area, given the lack of any other major club for miles around.

McElhenney needed a partner for the investment and got Reynolds on board with the idea as he required “movie money” rather than just the “TV money” he had made from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Mcelhenney and Reynolds have helped Wrexham reach new heights
Mcelhenney and Reynolds have helped Wrexham reach new heights (PA Archive)

In November 2020, RR McReynolds LLC bought Wrexham AFC for £2m, following a poll among the club’s 2,000 Supporters’ Trust members who voted overwhelmingly in favour of their new owners and from there, the duo set about rebuilding the club.

They invested in community schemes and hired voluntary staff like Wrexham’s disability liaison officer. They stayed in the town and drank in The Turf pub over the road. The Welcome to Wrexham documentary has charted their course and while perhaps it is just PR fluff rather than a truly hard-hitting sports doc, it has drawn eyeballs and further investment to the team, with the Hollywood pair utilising knowledge and contacts from their day jobs.

TikTok were brought on as the club’s leading sponsor, bringing a tenfold increase in revenue. Other major brands like Expedia came on board too as Reynolds and McElhenney cranked up the publicity, appearing to millions on The One Show in the UK and The Late Late Show in the US.

They hired the former English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey to help run the club, alongside Ker, handling contract renewals and transfers, enabling them to sign players with pedigree in the leagues above with the lure of big wages and a long-term project.

Players such as Mullin, Lee, Ollie Palmer and many others have brought success and excitement on the pitch which, in turn, has led to regeneration of the local community and businesses, including The Turfpub featured in the documentary becoming a tourist hotspot.

Where the journey ends, who knows? But Reynolds and McElhenney may just be about to help Wrexham end a 20-year drought with promotion to League One and the sky appears to be the limit.

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