TV & Radio

Welcome to Wrexham’s biggest heroes are neither the A-list owners nor the players

We’ve got to get out of this f***ing league,” Wrexham AFC co-owner Ryan Reynolds says at the end of Welcome to Wrexham’s first series, which sees his newly acquired football club languishing in the National League, five whole tiers below the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. His team finished just a few points off promotion to the highly coveted English Football League (EFL), the first big step in the ascent of professional English football. The beauty of a documentary series that trails behind reality is, of course, that we know Wrexham do make it out of “this f***ing league”, in events that will be shown in the FX series’ second run, out on Disney Plus in the UK on 13 September. The football club, which is nestled just over the Welsh side of the Wales-England border, near Cheshire, got its Hollywood ending this year when it was finally promoted to League Two, ending 15 years of EFL exile for its devoted fans.

The club’s historic comeback was overseen by Deadpool’s Reynolds and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Rob McElhenney, who purchased Wrexham in November 2020 for ​​£2m. The two actors have since pumped significant sums of their Hollywood earnings (or in Reynolds’ case, his $610m gin company sale) into rejuvenating the club’s historic Racecourse Ground and making record fee player signings such as Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer. The real stars of the show aren’t on the pitch or in the boardroom, though. They’re in the stands.

In the first series, Reynolds, McElhenney and their pro footballers were totally overshadowed by the fans, whose stories were often twisty and tragic. There’s local painter-decorator Shaun Winter (“My grandad was a painter, my dad’s a painter. And I f***ing hate it”), who casually reveals to his mates at the pub that the mother of his children has left him. And cancer survivor Michael Hett, lead singer of a local band, The Declan Swans, whose song about Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s takeover became a surprise hit.

Ahead of the second series’ imminent release, The Independent has tracked the journeys of Welcome to Wrexham’s cast of Hollywood stars, footballers and fans. 

See what they’ve all been up to below… 

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney

Reynolds and McElhenney are still the owners of Wrexham AFC. It wasn’t a long-winded practical joke, after all.

The purchase came about thanks to an unlikely third character, Humphrey Ker, a British comedy writer and actor. Kerworked with McElhenney on his Apple TV+ comedy Mythic Quest, and it was during this time that he introduced the American star to football, or “soccer” as they say.

After watching Netflix’s lauded football docuseries Sunderland Till I Die, McElhenney was obsessed. “We should do this. Buy a football team. But do it in reverse, by buying a club already struggling and try to turn it around,” he told Ker.

McElhenney had Ker put together a shortlist of struggling clubs that were in dire need of rejuvenation. Hartlepool, Macclesfield and Bolton Wanderers were considered, but Wrexham came out on top.

As McElhenney puts it in the series, he had “TV money” but he needed “movie money” to buy a football club. Who better to help than actor-turned-business-mogul Reynolds, whom McElhenney had only ever spoken to through social media?

Reynolds and McElhenney are now perceivably thick as thieves – blowing millions of dollars on a lower-league soccer club will, presumably, do that. “I consider him one of my closest friends, and I didn’t even know him three years ago,” McElhenney said of Reynolds in a recent interview.

Series two will see them welcome a whole host of their celebrity friends to the Racecourse, including Reynolds’s wife Blake Lively, Will Ferrell, and Paul Rudd, who was present for Wrexham’s promotion-earning victory over Boreham Wood.

One of the biggest concerns is that these multi-hyphenate stars will get bored and sell off the club, plunging the fans back into the ownership chaos from whence they came. For now, at least, they seem genuine about their ambitions to take the club to the premier league, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are.

Humphrey Ker

Phil Parkinson, manager, celebrates after Wrexham are promoted to the English Football League

Even Humphrey Ker isn’t quite sure how Humphrey Ker became the executive director of a football club. The plummy 40-year-old attended Eton, studied at the University of Edinburgh and began a career in entertainment with an award-winning show at the Fringe (he won Best Newcomer in 2011). He appeared on panel shows like Have I Got News For You before moving to the US to write scripts for TV pilots, where he met McElhenney.

His best fish-out-of-water moment comes in the first series’ second episode where he awkwardly explains his role as liaison between the owners and the club to the current Wrexham squad. As he leaves the meeting, the room bursts into laddish chuckles as if a particularly hapless supply teacher has just left the classroom.

Ker is still very much on board and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. He told The Athletic in a recent interview: “I’ve had a very privileged life and had some really fun jobs as an actor and writer. But I was saying to Rob on the bus, I love our day jobs but you just don’t get this in TV, with 40,000 people taking to the streets to shout ‘Great show’ at you. That’s why this has honestly been the best three years of my life.”

Phil Parkinson

Wrexham’s ‘third owner’ Humphrey Ker

Paul Mullin celebrates while playing for Wrexham

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