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Disney’s Fairytales Can’t Protect Wrexham from the Football League

If you were told that an anonymous team, newly promoted to League Two after a fifteen-year hiatus, sat in the play-off spots after nine games, it would typically be seen as a commendable start. For Wrexham AFC, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The story of this cherished Welsh club, once on the brink due to mismanagement, took an unexpected turn with the intervention of Hollywood actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds. Despite their unfamiliarity with football, they breathed life into the team, investing in facilities, embracing the culture, and matching the passion of the supporters.

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Their impact extended beyond Wrexham, resonating across non-league football, bringing more eyes to this level than ever before seen. This can be highlighted by the fact that their title decider against Notts County last season received more interactions on Twitter than a game between Arsenal and Liverpool. A game that also had huge ramifications on the title race in the Premier League.

The records that were being broken off the pitch were matched by that on it, with Hollywood’s newest underdog being crowned champions with an astounding 111 points. In doing so, they secured their long-awaited return to the football league.

Approaching the 2023/2024 season, many thought they seemed primed for another run at the top of the table. People inside and outside of the club believed they had the quality to achieve something quite remarkable.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster stated on an appearance on The Fellas podcast that he was backing his team for promotion.

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“I genuinely thought they’d [his teammates] do alright in League One, and maybe even in the Championship they’d hold their own… last season [Wrexham] beat Coventry in the FA Cup.

“We’ve just been promoted, and now we’re favourites to go up again. I’d back that as well.”

The former England international was certainly making a statement with his claims. However, some of what he was saying was true. Wrexham did start the season as the bookies’ favourites. Were these assertions perhaps a little over optimistic? No one claimed that Bradford City were Premier League ready when they knocked out eventual champions Chelsea in the 2015 FA Cup. Or made them favourites for promotion the following season.

The state of hyperbole that seems to surround the club can be summed up in one sentence. During an interview with the then BT Sport after securing promotion to the football league, McElhenney maintained a straight face as he proclaimed, “Paul Mullin is one of the greatest football players in the world.”

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It is entirely possible that the Always Sunny in Philadelphia star did not mean this literally. He is a comedy actor after all. However, the flip side to that is he meant every word he said. As did Ben Foster. As did the bookies when they listed Phil Parkinson’s side as the top dogs in the division. This is despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that Wrexham would take to League Two like a duck to water.

Historical data reveals that winning the National League doesn’t guarantee immediate success in League Two. The average position of the last twenty champions as newly promoted teams is around 14th place, highlighting the competitiveness of the league. Zero of them finished first and only two managed promotion. Stevenage in 2011 and Crawley Town in 2012.

Now, some will point out that Wrexham are an anomaly in comparison to these other teams due to the level of financial backing they have and the notoriety of their owners. However, there are never any guarantees in football.

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Take Salford City. While they didn’t win the National League, they were promoted via the play-offs in 2019. Backed by the famous Class of ’92, made up of Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and later David Beckham, the club was headed by footballing royalty. They had featured in a popular documentary series on the BBC. Yet, this has not been enough for them to continue further up the divisions.

Despite recent history telling us that fame and money are not enough to thrive in this lion’s den of football, it seems everyone has become wrapped in the hype and excitement of Wrexham to fully understand the challenges that are ahead of them.

Who ends up as the biggest loser as a result of this? It’s actually Wrexham themselves. As was indicated in the first paragraph of this article, they are actually faring really well. Being in the play-offs is a fantastic foundation from which they can build. It’s not impossible to say that automatic promotion is within their reach either, especially when you consider that Notts County, their closest rivals last season, are actually top of the tree so far in League Two.

However, the pressure that comes with so many eyes being on you has perhaps led some to believe that Wrexham are failing. This is made all the more dramatic when you look at the manner in which they have dropped points this season. A 5-3 loss to MK Dons. A 5-5 draw with Swindon Town. Most recently, a 5-0 drubbing by Stockport. These are admittedly bad results that emphasise a lack of defensive stability. But they overshadow the four wins that Phil Parkinson’s men have managed this season. The four wins that have helped propel them into the play-off spots.

Wrexham have been on the receiving end of some bruises in the early part of this season. And that perhaps was not part of the script many fans would’ve hoped. Especially those that have become enamoured with the club after watching their docu-series. However, those fans may not realise just how difficult what Wrexham are attempting to achieve is. It also seems that even some who are fully engorged in this beautiful game have forgotten too, leading to unrealistic forecasts on how the season will pan out.

What the players, staff and owners need to do is block out all the noise. If they learn lessons from the bumps they face along the way, there is still a good chance of a happy ending for this story. If they achieve it, history books should show that it was never a formality.


  • Callum Bishop

    Callum is a sports journalist who boasts a variety of experience in producing written and video content. If it involves kicking, throwing or hitting a ball, best believe that Callum is watching and covering it. Despite popular belief, he would never have made it pro regardless of any knee injuries. However, he absolutely lives off the time he nutmegged a Premier League player during five aside.