Once a hub of coal and lead mining and central to the production of iron, steel and leather, and a brewing powerhouse. Now, like many post-industrial towns, Wrexham suffers from some hardship. The locals love their football club, but that too is struggling. Two Hollywood millionaire stars take over the ailing team in an attempt to bring the club back from the brink in Welcome To Wrexham.

Sounds like the makings of a romantic comedy or a feel good sports drama straight from Tinseltown, but this is real. It is actually happening and it is the subject of a wonderful reality TV show.

Welcome-to-Wrexham

Welcome To Wrexham

“I’m finding football to be very weird… some draws are considered wins.”

Ryan Reynolds

No matter where you are in the world, the power of sport cannot be denied. When you combine sport with history, you get emotion, and from emotion comes both drama and comedy. This is what underpins a new factual TV show Welcome To Wrexham as it follows the trials and tribulations of Wrexham Football Club under the stewardship of its two new, unlikely, owners.

The third oldest professional football club in the world, which resides in the oldest international stadium in world football, is struggling. It is currently wallowing in the National League. This is the 5th tier of football, four entire leagues below the Premier League, where the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea play. It’s previous owners invested nothing in the club, seemingly wanting its stadium as prime redevelopment land.

Welcome-to-Wrexham

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia guest star Humphrey Ker introduces actor Rob McElhanney to the beautiful game – football as it is played globally – and McElhanney becomes aware of the struggling club. He has an idea but quickly realises, as he puts it:

“I have TV money. A project like this needs movie money… and gin magnate money!”

He links up with his social media buddy, movie star Ryan Reynolds, and together they hatch a plan to buy Wrexham FC, hoping the project will help bring back some good times to the club and, by extension, the town. The two of them know next to nothing about football, football clubs, Wales, the league system.

Watching them try and learn, while slowly getting sucked into the wonders of the world’s favourite game, makes for great television.

Welcome To Wrexham starts with McElhanney watching games online in the middle of the night at his home in LA. They, and by extension us, are taken on a journey into football as the harsh facts of life in the lower leagues are revealed. The look of childlike wonder on the faces of the two stars as they discover the facts of promotion and relegation between leagues, a feature largely missing in American sports, is brilliant. Without promotion out of the National League they are on the hook to lose $1.5 million a day. As Reynolds puts it:

“I have only been owner of a football club for a short time but so far I have found it very time consuming, emotionally exhausting, financially idiotic… and utterly addictive.”

McElhanney adds:

“I am used to be able to go into a writers room and come out at the end of it knowing what is going to happen and I don’t know what’s going to happen here and I love it!”

Standing for the first time on the hallowed ground of the stadium on a match day, they are both taken aback, saying “We just don’t have anything like this!”

However this is the dirty end of football. No glitz or glamour, and no international stars selling sneakers. Just hard games on hard pitches on hard nights in the dead of winter on the Welsh borders. The language reflects that and is unfiltered.

Watching a struggling team outside the main leagues, festooned with TikTok and Aviation Gin logos as sponsors thanks to McElhanney and Reynolds with their star power, is as utterly addictive as Reynolds says. Watching them come to realise the precious place football teams have in towns and cities, where they are not corporate franchises that move around looking for local tax breaks, but central pillars of the community, is even more important than the drama on the pitch.

As they become totally committed football fans, they start to experience the agony and ecstasy the whole town feels they win or lose. Losing a game directly after they have paid for an entirely new turf to be laid, a despondent Reynolds sighs:

“At least the pitch looks nice.”

They wax lyrical about the away game culture being like nothing in American sports, with fans piling onto buses at the crack of dawn on a Saturday and travelling to the other end of the country for 90 minutes of football. Wrexham fans travelling for as long to get to an away game as Reynolds does to arrive from New York.

Likewise they revel in fan chants, with entire songs and rhymes being made up about clubs, rival fans and even the two of them. They bemoan the lack of creativity at home with simple chants of “USA-USA” at international games.

The show is also funny. Very funny. These are two funny guys who frequently use sarcasm to cope with adversity. They are also very open and honest. A highly memorable scene involves their first visit to Wrexham and ending up in the local pub with a group of supporters. Many beers and quite a few shots later two Hollywood stars find themselves in a classic drunken pub football discussion with highly emotional, drunken fans pouring their hearts out.

When asked if they should take a look at replacing the manager of the team as they are struggling after 11 games, Reynolds tells them:

“If my career was judged by 11 movies I’d be fucked!”

In another scene, when at the local video rental score they ask the owner if there is a movie nobody ever rents and are told Green Lantern. Reynolds takes it on the chin as McElhanney laughs at his friend.

It is their total capture by the passion of the game slowly unfolding week by week, that is the highlight.

An emotionally drained Reynolds comments “My heart cannot take this!” and “How do people do this? It’s heartbreaking!” as the team struggles to turn a game around. After that turns into a defeat, a visibly upset McElhanney tells him:

“My American optimism and your Canadian pragmatism both fucked us!”

This show is not just for football fans, but all sports fans as it goes to the heart of what being a sports fan is really about. In between comedy moments, like Reynolds leaving his mic on when going for a pee and complimenting himself on the strength of his flow, there are moments of drama and real emotion.

Welcome-to-wrexham

From the kids who can’t quite get over the fact that Deadpool now owns their club, to locals opining that it is now OK to admit to supporting Wrexham FC, watching the project unfold is a beautiful thing.

The last word probably belongs to the two guys themselves, now totally obsessed with the sport:

“The highs and lows are so intense that you hate it, but wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Rob McElhanney

“Football is a staggering, heart breaking, soul killing, evil, gorgeous game that’s so goddamn beautiful I am never sleeping again.”

Ryan Reynolds

Welcome to Wrexham is on FX in the US and Disney+ in the rest of the world.

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