Whether genuine, stunt, larf, documentary fodder, or indulgence, Wrexham delivered to those who matter

Whether genuine, stunt, larf, documentary fodder, or indulgence, Wrexham delivered to those who matter

As I said in an initial review, Welcome To Wrexham, the show isn’t really for me and my ilk (nor should most anything be, really, we’re a broody bunch). It wasn’t meant for the diehard soccer fan, who already is at least somewhat familiar with promotion, and relegation, the football pyramid in England, and the challenges faced by the smaller clubs around the UK (and elsewhere). Without those things making a crucial difference in our information and entertainment levels, it got easier to view Rob McElhenney’s and Ryan Reynolds’ “project” with suspicion. The show, at least early in the first season, seemed to go out of its way to portray them as even more bouncing souls than we already perceive them while removing their involvement from any hard decision that had to be made. Again, it’s hard to care about their uneasiness of having to fork over a few more hundred thousand dollars to relay the field when we know they have it, and we know that’s a pretty normal thing for team owners to have to do. If their lack of knowledge about the ins and outs of what they got themselves into was one of the show’s main threads, those who have followed soccer know that their learning curve was putting an institution that means quite a lot to people in Wrexham at risk, and we knew that was a far heavier toll to those that make the club than the charm of the Hollywood pair’s version of a “foreign bride” story.

Wrexham’s sojourn outside of the Football League, the club’s descent to near extinction before McElhenney and Reynolds saved it, the hope they provided to supporters who had seen a few broken promises before, these were weightier than a vanity project for a fun show. Reynolds and McElhenney danced on both sides of that line during that first season of the show. Perhaps it is the coldness of the soccer world that leads fans like me to be somewhat cynical about things like this, or our protective/insular nature that still exists for the sport in this country among some parts of the fandom (I’m working on it I swear). Were they really in this, for real?

We know now.

It’s Relatively Sunny in Wales

Maybe McElhenney is such a good actor that those tears are for show, but I highly doubt it (not to cast aspersions on his acting ability. I’m not an Always Sunny guy, shocking as it may be to everyone who knows me, so I have no frame of reference). And that pitch invasion wasn’t staged, those celebrations weren’t staged, and the joy you can still feel spilling out from your Twitter feed isn’t staged. That’s as real as it gets — the absolute pinnacle of sports and sports fandom. It may be a joy so many of us will never know, because how many of us are fans of teams that were hours from not existing?

There have already been cries of Wrexham having an unfair advantage thanks to their celebrity owners. And there are plenty of stories of the “non-league premium” that Wrexham had to pay to get players to join a club in a league that not all that long ago was filled with clubs that weren’t even professional. There’s a premium Reynolds and McElhenney provide to their newest investment that is unique to its division. But owners all over the sports pyramid provide their own advantages or disadvantages — we spend most of our time writing about the latter. Whether it’s money, a new way of running a club, some connections with the right agents, or whatever else, this is the game beyond the game. A good portion of the hate for Wrexham comes from bitterness and jealousy. They now have what so many others want.

What matters most is the look on the faces of all those fans sprinting onto the pitch at the final whistle yesterday, or the ones in the pubs throughout the town, the celebrations that will be remembered forever by those partaking in them. Whatever Reynolds’s and McElhenney’s true motives were, and however they’ve been changed by seeing what this club is and what it means to its fans and the community over the past three years, they’ve provided for the fans. They returned Wrexham to the Football League, just like they said they would. “Ends justify the means” is the slipperiest slope in the world, but there’s a lot more leash when it makes people this happy.

One of the show’s best angles was the pair’s realization of what the club did mean to Wrexham, the city, as they learned more about what they’d taken charge of. At the beginning of the show, it feels like McElhenney is paying lip service to the passion and similarities between the fandoms of his hometown Philly and northeastern Wales. But he seemed unsure of that, and in truth clubs like Wrexham, and their connections to their communities, are just different from the franchises over here. But Welcome To Wrexham was honest in tracing how both McElhenney’s and Reynolds’ eyes were opened to what they had really bought into and what they had promised to take on. That really is the heart of both the show and their actual ownership.

There are different challenges now for Wrexham, though with most if not all clubs in the Conference having gone full-time professional in recent years, it means the jump back into the Football League isn’t a chasm. The skepticism at the beginning has been replaced by trust when we hear the celebrity pair talking about the long haul and the club remaining in their families for generations. Maybe that’s just as pie-in-the-sky as the original story of them purchasing this random club in Wales was at the beginning. Even if so, it sure feels different now even for the cold-hearted like me.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate to watch him lose this romanticism about soccer as soon as West Ham score first on Wednesday.

Original source here

#genuine #stunt #larf #documentary #fodder #indulgence #Wrexham #delivered #matter

About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.