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TV Review: Welcome to Wrexham worth a watch but questions remain over Hollywood stars

Billy Foley

Billy Foley

Billy has almost 30 years’ experience in journalism after leaving DCU with a BAJ. He has worked at the Irish Independent, Evening Herald and Sunday Independent in Dublin, the Cork-based Evening Echo and the New Zealand Herald. He joined the Irish News in 2000, working as a reporter and then Deputy News Editor. He has been News Editor since 2007

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham Football Club. Picture by Patrick McElhenney/FX.
Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham Football Club. Picture by Patrick McElhenney/FX. Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham Football Club. Picture by Patrick McElhenney/FX.

Welcome to Wrexham, Disney+

It’s hard to know about the motives of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

The Hollywood stars bought Wrexham Football Club during lockdown and started filming a docuseries before the deal was even done.

The two had never met in person before deciding to buy the struggling club at the other side of the world and five episodes into the series they had yet to visit Wrexham.

They appoint their British friend, a screenwriter on one of their shows, as “Executive Director” to represent their interests in Wales.

There’s a particularly cringey moment when Humphrey Ker is introduced to the players and the manager as the actors’ representative and he admits that he has no clue what he’s doing and his day job is writing for TV.

Having said that, Reynolds and McElhenney seem genuine and they do invest.

The desperate fans, who have seen their club stuck in the National League for more than a decade, welcome the actors with open arms, presumably hoping for Roman Abramovich type investment.

Shortly after the two owners take over, Wrexham narrowly fail to make the playoffs and are faced with their 13th season in the fifth level of English football.

Some of the longer standing fans remember their club in the old second division. They take pride that Wrexham is the third oldest professional club in the world and plays at the oldest continuously used stadium in the football – The Racecourse Ground.

The new owners sack their manager and release 11 first team players. In the off season, new manager Phil Parkinson joins and League Two’s top striker Paul Mullin is persuaded to drop a division to join Wrexham.

Ground improvements are made and a new pitch is laid, at staggering cost.

Everyone is excited about the 21/22 season but it starts poorly with a series of draws and then back to back losses. Wrexham, everyone’s favourite to be promoted, lie in 9th place.

So, even if their football isn’t great, is Welcome to Wrexham worth a watch?

In short, yes. It’s not the first show to go behind the scene of a sports club but these kinds of series have always been interesting.

It exposes for us once more, the brutality of professional sport. These lads are professional footballers but with an average wage in the National League of £39,000, none of them are driving sports cars.

At this level of football one-year contracts are common, so it’s perform or you're out.

And even if you are a successful player and have a 15-year career, you’re looking for a new career in your mid-thirties with not a lot in the bank.

Star striker Paul Mullin explains that he didn’t come to Wrexham for the money, but because it was near to his home and allowed him to spend more time with his wife and family.

“They could offer me a million pound to play for some club in China and it wouldn’t matter,” he says by way of explanation.

The one thing that wasn’t explained was whether McElhenney and Reynolds really happened across a chance to buy a football club with a heritage or if the whole scheme was dreamt up at a Hollywood ideas session.

When the pair were interviewed by the supporters’ club before they bought the club, the first question was “why Wrexham?”

And we never got an answer. We got video clips of McElhenney and Reynolds visiting the neighbourhoods they grew up in to demonstrate their working club credentials and their love of team sports.

But thus far – there’s only five episodes available to review – we’re no closer to an answer.

Welcome to Wrexham is now streaming on Disney+ with two episodes from the series of 18 released each week.