The football world was shocked when Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchased Wrexham AFC, a team located in North Wales that plays in the fifth tier of English football.
The two actors, by their own admission, know very little about the sport of football. Reynolds last played when he was 8 years old. Rob grew up watching American football, supporting the Eagles in his hometown of Philadelphia.
For this reason, it was especially intriguing when the two decided to purchase Wrexham. Wrexham has a long history dating back to 1864, making it one of the oldest football clubs in the world. Wrexham’s stadium, the Racecourse Ground, is the longest-serving international football stadium, with its first international game being played in 1877.
In the pilot for “Welcome to Wrexham,” McElhenney describes how the idea came about. When he first learned about the English Pyramid, in which any team in the nation can play at any level through promotion and relegation, he became infatuated with the idea of the ultimate underdog story. With the right funding and leadership, he could take a club from the bottom of professional football to the very top.
As the series unfolds, it is abundantly clear that this is no joke. The two Hollywood actors are dedicated to the success of the club; but, more importantly, the success of the town. The town and the club are wholly intertwined. When one struggles, so does the other. When the town went through substantial financial hardship, the club spiraled to the point where the team now plays in the fifth tier of English football – the lowest level that is still considered professional.
The community around Wrexham was the driving force behind McElhenney’s decision to choose Wrexham AFC. He cites his own experiences growing up in Philadelphia with the Eagles, where “the team becomes an extension of the city.” McElhenney says that Wrexham reminds him of Philadelphia; a hard-working, blue collar town that lives behind their team.
What is most surprising about the docuseries is the content. On the surface, it is an underdog sports tale. In earnest, the show tells the story of a tired community. The show follows a wheelchair-ridden fan who volunteers at the club; a team veteran and father remodeling his home; a young supporter who plays with the team in a video game; even an owner of a local pub right outside the grounds. It follows the community. Almost every episode focuses on one townsperson at a time, revealing their struggles and telling their story.
Key among the struggles of the town is its frustrations with the team’s situation. Wrexham AFC has spent well over a decade in the fifth tier, which is longer than any other team in the history of the league. The people of Wrexham want nothing more than for their team to succeed, and the show does an excellent job in displaying the attitudes of the community.
Every episode shows how important the team is to the town. It draws the viewer in, making it impossible not to grow attached to the team; and more importantly, the community.
For all football and sports fans, the show provides a gripping tale and introduces a new team to support. The show is a serious docuseries that tells the story of a struggling team and the town around them, but still offers plenty of light-hearted moments to enjoy.
New episodes air Wednesdays on FX, and can also be streamed on Hulu.