Underdog Stories: Why Wrexham AFC Should Aim for the English Premier League

Underdog Stories: Why Wrexham AFC Should Aim for the English Premier League image

📖 Published on: March 5th, 2024

✍️ Updated: March 8th, 2024

⏳ 9 mins read

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Wrexham AFC has written some of the biggest stories in the football world, and their continued success in the sport has earned them a lot of praise as well. But is it high time that the team steered and concentrated their efforts toward a bigger run and set their eyes on the highest prize in football?

 

For those who aren’t familiar (how are you not?), Wrexham AFC is the oldest football club in Wales and the third-oldest professional club in the world. Founded in 1864, Wrexham made its climb to the National League from 1977 to 2003 but got stuck there and failed to come up with a win to get promoted ever since. How they managed to become a global phenomenon is a huge shock to the football world. Everyone wants to do a Wrexham, but not everybody can.

 

Wrexham Before the Climb

 

Wrexham AFC was one of the losing teams in the National League for decades. It has been a long while since they’ve gained huge public attention and the club was already on the verge of being dissolved, due to the lack of revenue and the continuous failure of the club to get out of the National League.

 

Wrexham lost to Eastleigh image

This has affected their status as one of the historic clubs in football, especially in Wales. After finishing 4th overall in the 2018-19 season, Wrexham lost in the play-off quarterfinal to Eastleigh. A year later, the club then finished 19th and was so close to being relegated had it not been for the points per game that allowed them to have an edge over other clubs, which definitely saved their chances of being pushed down to the lower tiers of English Football. To make matters worse, it was also the lowest position that the club ever finished within its 150-year history at that time.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse for Wrexham. Aside from the low finish, it does seem that their revenue was not doing well, and it proved to be one of the biggest hurdles that they needed to overcome, especially when the 2020-21 season returned for the National League, and Wrexham managed to compete one last time with a second-place finish, but ultimately fell short in the play-offs where they lost to Grimsby Town at 5-4, after extra time, which certainly led to the dying fanbase as the team continuously struggled to win and make their way out of the National League.

 

What Made Wrexham AFC Relevant Again?

 

Wrexham then made sure that they could make one last push before everything went awry. In a snap, Wrexham proved to be the team that has what it takes to carve a storied comeback, and they did just that. From coming up with a Fourth-Round rally in the 2022-23 FA Cup – the only National League team to do so in that campaign, all the way to tallying 111 points by the end of the season – a record in all of the top-five divisions in English football, and they defeated Notts County to the championship and immediately earning the promotion spot to the EFL League Two.

 

But how did they turn their chances around and pave the way to a whole new era of success?

 

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney

 

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney took over Wrexham image

 

Let’s be real, Wrexham would have never found its way to the top of the National League had it not been the intervention of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Through the joint RR McReynolds Company, the two American artists bought the club in November 2020, receiving a backing of 98.6% from the members of the Wrexham Supporters Trust, and finally completing the deal in 2021.

 

In their first full year as owners, Wrexham saw a lot of changes. From the signing of Phil Parkinson as the manager, star players Paul Mullin and Elliot Lee, had waves of impact on the club, and it changed their work ethic as well. For instance, the owners learned how to manage a football team well, which led them to improve the facilities of the team, as well as integrate the fanbase and reignite the city’s love for their club. They even went on to pursue a project to renovate the Racecourse Ground for the fans, which is the oldest international football stadium. It cannot be denied that the owners’ dedication to learning about the community, and how the team has been important to many fans in the city.

Reynolds and McElhenney watching Wrexham play image

 

Of course, their success as owners proved to be a standard-setter as a lot of critics praised the way they shaped the community into a family – building a strong relationship with the club, the fans, and the city itself.

 

Paul Mullin and Elliot Lee

 

Paul Mullin was signed by Wrexham in 2021 image

A by-product of Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s impressive management, Wrexham inked Paul Mullin in 2021-22 and then Elliot Lee in 2022-23. These two stars would play a huge role as Wrexham rallied their way from being a top-four club in the National League during their huge campaign in 2023, all the way to being the leading team by the closing stretch of the season. The duo combined for 50 goals in the season, with Mullin dropping 38 and helping Wrexham gain the upper hand in their key matches against leading contenders, especially in the showdown versus Notts Country in the April 2023 clash at 3-2, and their eventual title-winning match against Boreham Wood later that month.

 

The duo of Mullin and Lee provided the needed firepower that Wrexham didn’t have in the previous seasons. However, it is worth noting that these two players have also had their journeys in the team and it has led to a promising partnership between the stars so far. Their 2022-23 season saw growth and development across the squad, proving that they have what it takes to be a contender in the National League, and showing the world that they are not backing down from a tough challenge.

Elliot Lee was signed by Wrexham in 2022 image

 

Welcome to Wrexham

 

Welcome to Wrexham image

On top of all that, the documentary series Welcome to Wrexham proved to be a huge boost for the club’s popularity worldwide. Released by FX, Welcome to Wrexham highlighted the journey of the club following the takeover of Reynolds and McElhenney. From learning the basics of football, managing the club, highlighting the players’ stories and their struggles, all the way to the rise of the club as a force in the National League, the story told in that documentary proved to be an inspiring piece that has allowed Wrexham to ascend as one of the global teams – even though they are in the lower tiers of English football.

 

As of the time of writing, Welcome to Wrexham has won eight awards across different awarding committees. From the struggles and the continued success of the club, Welcome to Wrexham has led to the team’s popularity and massive fan following from fans all over the world. It played a huge role in Wrexham’s victory parade, which saw a total of 40,000 fans visit the city and the continued sell-out crowd at the Racecourse Ground whenever the club plays.

 

What Lies Ahead for Wrexham AFC

 

Wrexham AFC still has a lot of climbing to do. But the success of the club in the past few years has shown that they have great potential to forge one of the biggest underdog stories in English football. Imagine a climb that spanned from the fifth tier to the top. Wrexham is currently in EFL League Two, and a continued promotion will see them in the Premier League by the 2026-27 season.

 

So far, Wrexham is currently sitting at the third spot of the EFL League Two, which will result in them getting an automatic promotion to EFL League One by the end of the season should they stay on the prowl. Who knows, maybe Wrexham can even pull off a championship in EFL League Two, which should further increase their popularity and global recognition as time goes by.

Wrexham currently plays at EFL League Two image

 

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