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National League: Wrexham - when Hollywood went to north Wales

Wrexham's off-field connections have seen them hit the headlines over the last couple of years and a new documentary about the club is set to be released on Thursday.

This article was originally published on 23 August 2022

Titled 'Welcome to Wrexham', the eight-part series will be streamed on Disney+ and follows owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds as the Hollywood A-listers experience the highs and lows of life as football fans.

Packed with real-life drama, the rollercoaster ride of emotions follows the duo, who finalised their purchase of the club in 2021, as their side eventually falls short in their quest for promotion from the National League.

Defeated but not down, the Dragons are intent on mounting another promotion push in 2022/23, with them currently fourth in the National League.

They are 10/11 to win the division outright, while they can be backed at 1/2 to be promoted.

Genuine passion

Football fans have been spoiled in recent times by the plethora of docuseries following our heroes.

Given McElhenney and Reynolds' presence, it is easy to connect the dots and expect this to be excessively dramatic and engorged in overly extravagant cinematography.

That could become frustrating, but the teaser footage suggests the makers of this series have found the perfect balance.

US actors McElhenney and Reynolds could steal the show with their naivety as they learn the ins and outs of both being supporters and owning a team. In fact, when asked if they have any idea about running a football club, the latter candidly replies "absolutely not".

A good question to ask them would be 'what do you think of promotion and relegation?' The concept is rare in the States and may have come as a surprise if they hadn't done their homework.

However, a lack of preparation doesn't seem to have been the case, but one thing the pair may not have expected is the genuine emotion and passion they appear to have developed.

The sincerity with which they address the fans and follow the games from 6,000 miles away makes it appear that the "feeling" for the club McElhenney talks about is here to stay.

Community club

McElhenney's interest in football is thought to have come from watching 'Sunderland 'Til I Die'.

Both series of that received wide acclaim for not just the football footage and insight, but also for how its makers explored the Black Cats' impact on the local community in Wearside.

The early signs are that 'Welcome to Wrexham' treads a similar path, with one fan admitting that football "is not life and death. It's more important than that".

Some viewers may grow frustrated by the subtitles offered when certain footballing parlance is used, but that only demonstrates that the series is aimed at reaching a wider audience.

Wrexham is like many Welsh and British towns, in that the local sports clubs provide identity and there appears to be plenty of footage of long-suffering fans looking for hope in their team.

Meanwhile, for older viewers not associated with the Dragons and for older viewers not associated with the club, there is a pang of nostalgia, especially when you're reminded that they have not been in the Football League since 2008.

A team on the up

The pair's investment has undoubtedly given the club the 'shot in the arm' McElhenney hints at in the teaser footage.

After finishing eighth in the 2020/21 campaign, during which their unlikely takeover was confirmed, Wrexham came home second in the National League last term.

That bought them a bye to the semi-finals of the play-offs, only for them to lose 5-4 in a blockbuster clash with Grimsby Town.

That was the culmination of a nightmare fortnight for the club, who lost their final game of the season at Dagenham & Redbridge 3-0 on 15th May, before going down 1-0 to Bromley in the following week's FA Trophy final.

Those defeats don't look to have dulled McReynolds' enthusiasm, however, with Phil Parkinson kept on in the dugout and they have added more quality in the likes of forward Elliot Lee - who netted twice on his debut against Eastleigh - defender Jordan Tunnicliffe and goalkeeper Mark Howard.

They've also kept hold of Paul Mullin, who signed in 2021 after a 32-goal campaign for Cambridge United which saw him win the League Two Player of the Season.

The striker netted 26 goals last term and already has four for the current campaign.

After bagging a hat-trick in last weekend's 5-0 win over Maidstone, he is 1/1 to score in Saturday's game at Woking.

The visitors are 10/11 to win at the Kingfield Stadium, but while McElhenney and Reynolds are unlikely to be in attendance, the emotion the early footage of this documentary displays suggests it won't be too long until their next visit to the Dee Valley.

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