“There’s a version of the story where we’re villains,” says Rob McElhenney to his Wrexham AFC co-owner Ryan Reynolds at the start of this new docuseries. They’re taking in the surroundings at the Racecourse Ground, home to the Dragons since 1864. For a long time Wrexham were one of Wales’ best teams, before a long slide led them to the fifth tier of English football. McElhenney and Reynolds, who bought the club in 2021, aim to reverse that slide. It won’t be easy.
Welcome To Wrexham gives an absorbing insight into Always Sunny star McElhenney and Hollywood pin-up Reynolds’ journey. As well as seeing them at home and at work in Los Angeles, we meet Wrexham club officials, long-suffering fans and the players themselves while following the club’s fortunes during the 2021/2022 season. The tense ending is already known in football circles (and we won’t spoil it here), but the lead-up to its climax still makes for a thrilling watch.
McElhenney’s interest in football was apparently piqued by watching Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die, which topped viewing charts in 2018, meaning that he and his co-owner are relative newcomers to the game. The producers lean into this by providing an English-to-American translator whenever football jargon comes into play, which may irritate long-term footy fans. But McElhenney and Reynolds’ burgeoning passion for the beautiful game is evident throughout. The former is seen getting up at 4am to watch Wrexham’s final game of the 20/21 season, while Reynolds pointedly declares that “our goal is to get the fuck out of this league” – music to the ears of Wrexham fans, no doubt.
The supporters of the third-oldest professional football club in the world are rightly given a voice throughout, ensuring that this isn’t solely the McElhenney and Reynolds show. Among the cast of locals we meet is the lead vocalist of pub band Declan Swans (writers of the terrace favourite ‘It’s Always Sunny In Wrexham’) who is seen undergoing treatment for cancer; a young fan waiting longingly outside the ground to meet his heroes; and a season ticket holder who credits fellow Wrexham fans with helping her to process the death of her husband.
Welcome To Wrexham’s real-life stories are especially poignant given the recent post-COVID return of crowds. After all, many of us will never take going to the football on a Saturday for granted again. You get the sense as the series progresses that, despite living half a world away from the Racecourse Ground, McElhenney and Reynolds – who, because of COVID, only attended their first Wrexham game in October 2021 – are starting to truly realise the potential of the local community which forms much of their club’s fan base.
There’s a deepening mutual respect between the faithful and the A-listers that should blossom further, providing Wrexham kick on and progress, but you’ll have to watch the documentary to see how their most recent attempt at completing that mission pans out. McElhenney can rest easy for now: there’s little chance that he and Reynolds will be cast as villains in the Wrexham AFC story just yet.
‘Welcome To Wrexham’ premieres on Disney+ on August 25