Football bores me numb, so I was reluctant to try the Welcome to Wrexham documentary series, but half way through I love it.
It’s not just about football; it is about the absurdity, beauty and unfairness of life. My husband and I wanted something to watch and I agreed to watch two episodes of the Disney+ show about Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney taking over Wales’ oldest football club.
The first episode didn’t inspire. Wrexham seemed depressing; a working class town in North Wales, with 65,000 inhabitants. The club has been around for 158 years and although it has been stuck in the National League for 13 years, the fans are always hopeful. The false naivety of Deadpool star Reynolds and It’s always sunny in Philadelphia‘s McElhenney annoyed me at first. Taking ownership of the club felt like a marketing stunt.
But despite myself, I started to feel outraged on behalf of Wrexham FC. It pulls you that way.
It’s a classic underdog story. The club has been unlucky, but these two gleaming investors arrive looking to wrestle Wrexham out of the lower divisions. Halfway through, a comeback seems impossible, but on the other hand, with smooth players like Paul Mullin, there is hope; it’s also there because many fans reminisce about the glory days when their team was in the second division.
The characters are extremely likeable. The players, the club’s permanent staff, the dedicated volunteers, lifelong fans, the man who owns the pub that stands at the entrance to the stadium – all in all a decent bunch. We hear their stories – the breakups and deaths, how they want to create a beautiful world for their children. When you get to know people, you feel warm for them.
New manager Phil Parkinson is a joy to observe. He has an eerie smile that lights up the face, but leaves the eyes faster than the other features. He is polite in the boardroom, quite scary in the locker room and out of control when he yells at the referee.
The gossip mill is constantly in motion. Fans and employees discuss what went wrong, what management is doing wrong, what they could do better. The drama is constant. The team is changed, the team barely makes the play-offs. The devastation and passion feels absurd and understandable.
Some parts are silly, like Reynolds and McElhenney ruining the Welsh connection. But I’m starting to like them. And their Hollywood glitter is just an afterthought. This series is about the power of volunteering and community, about how getting out of your home and being with others makes life better.
The Hollywood friends eventually head into town in their baseball hats and manicured beards to attend two ill-fated games. “This is heartbreaking. How do people do that?” asks Reynolds. At the end of episode nine, everyone is grumbling. And I’m hooked: I have to watch the other nine, like a fan who has no choice but to support their team through thick