Actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney may have brought Hollywood star power to long-struggling Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, but the players are writing their own script worthy of a blockbuster movie.
Wrexham are on the verge of winning promotion to the English Football League having amassed a record 107 points to sit top of the National League table with two games to go.
Victory over Boreham Wood on Saturday would guarantee promotion to Football League Two, the fourth tier of English soccer, and people in the northern Welsh city are gearing up for a memorable evening.
“You won’t be able to get in here tomorrow . . . no chance,” Mark Jones said from the Turf Hotel, the pub on the corner of the team’s Racecourse Ground. “Every pub in town will be the same. It’ll be emotional, very emotional.”
Jones plays guitar for the Declan Swans, a band of middle-agers who have achieved rock-star status through the FX documentary “Welcome to Wrexham” that chronicles the team’s progress under Reynolds and McElhenney, and their song “Always Sunny in Wrexham”. The title is a play on McElhenney’s show “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.
“Ryan actually knows us by our names now,” Jones, who delivers the post by day, said with a laugh. “How does Ryan Reynolds know my name? It’s quite bizarre.”
The documentary has propelled a little-known club into the global spotlight. Games draw huge viewing audiences, even in North America and the success story has left virtually no-one in Wrexham untouched.
Wayne Jones, who has owned The Turf for 15 years, said his life had become a lot busier. FX spent five hours in his pub on Friday morning shooting the trailer for Season Two. Jones was bidding farewell to the couple of dozen crew members when one told him: “You’re my mom’s favourite character”.
“We always worked hard but we work a lot harder now,” Jones said. “We’ll get 30, 40, 50 tourists in some days. Every day we get tourists, but some days it’s crazy busy. Lot of Americans and Canadians and Australians and South Africans, you name it.”
Inside The Turf, pictures of Reynolds, McElhenney and Deadpool battle for space on the red walls with Wrexham logos and longtime supporters’ names.
Jones, whose face has become so familiar he often gets mistaken for a player in the supermarket, laments the longtime Wrexham supporters who did not live to see the team’s success.
“There’s been some really dark days where the club has been on the verge of extinction and we’ve had some really shady owners,” the 40-year-old said. “I’ve also sat in (Racecourse Ground) when there’s only been two thousand fans on cold Tuesday nights.”
Johnny Boycott, a lifelong Wrexham fan, remembers the dark days.
“I’ve been to rubbish games,” he said, wearing a Wrexham Red Dragons jersey and green club jacket. He said he has every jersey the team shop sells.
Boycott, the transport manager for Wrexham & Prestige Taxis, joked that it can be tough to find drivers to work on game day.
“We’ve had so many fans in the taxis, Canada, America, all different parts of the world, which you never heard of that before,” he said. “But now the town, the pubs, after the match you can’t get in the pubs sometimes they’re so busy.
“But everyone’s happy, smiling. Everyone’s got a Wrexham shirt on, even the young kids. It’s simply brilliant. Crazy.”