Ryan Reynolds holds his head in his hands. Rob McElhaney leaned forward, took a deep breath and soon wiped the tears from his eyes.
Beneath the Hollywood actors, thousands of Wrexham fans flooded the pitch at the racecourse ground, setting up red flames and waving Welsh flags.
The previously hapless Welsh soccer club thrust into the global spotlight as its A-list owners celebrated on Saturday after Wrexham were promoted to the fourth tier of the English game.
Martin Ricketts/PA Photo via Getty Images
Reynolds and McElhenny, along with actor friend Paul Rudd, were among a crowd of more than 10,000 at the racecourse in North Wales as Wrexham beat Boreham Wood 3-1 to win the National League title.
Reynolds and McElhaney hugged in the manager’s box as the full-time whistle blew and, moments later, held up a flag with the words: “Wrexham champions 2022-23.”
They have seemingly become football fans since completing the purchase of the club in 2021 for $2.5 million. Part of the takeover was the creation of a fly-on-the-wall documentary — titled “Welcome to Wrexham” — that chronicled the journey of a team led by a couple of actors learning the ropes of owning a sports club.
The show’s second season will have a happy ending, with Wrexham returning to the English Football League — three divisions below the Premier League — for the first time in 15 years.
“One thing that kept going through my mind,” Reynolds said, looking out at the jubilant Wrexham players and fans, “was people saying early on, ‘Why Wrexham, why Wrexham?’ This is exactly why Wrexham.”
Wrexham are four points clear of second-placed Notts County with a game to play, so the only automatic promotion place in League Two is guaranteed. After being greeted by Reynolds and McElhenny, the Wrexham players lifted the league trophy in the middle of the pitch to chants of “We are the Champions”.
Reynolds is best known for starring in the movie “Deadpool,” while McElhaney is the creator of the TV show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” One of their objectives while rallying buy-in from Wrexham’s success-starved fans was to lead the 158-year-old side — the world’s third-oldest professional club — into the Premier League and the journey is well under way.
It was Wrexham’s first league title at any level since the old Division Three – then the third tier of the English game – in 1977, and the team did it in style, amassing a record 110 points and winning 34 of their 45 games so far. .
With the title in the bag, Wrexham fans cheered for the last few minutes of a match that ended more than a decade of injuries. The club had fallen on such hard times since the turn of the century that the trust of its supporters had to save the team from going out of business twice.
“We can feel what this means for the city,” McElhenny said on the field. “It’s a moment of catharsis and celebration for them. It’s the honor of my life to be welcomed into our community and welcome to this experience.”
Since their unlikely takeover, Reynolds and McElhenney have used their large Twitter followings to promote the club and brought in sponsors like TikTok, Aviation Gin and Expedia, which normally have no place at this level of the game.
Actors are also fulfilling the promises they made when they took over, like improving the stadium and investing heavily in the women’s team. They brought in board members and advisers with top-level football experience and who made good, intelligent decisions.
The industrial city of around 65,000 people, located near the north-west English border and close to the soccer hotbeds of Liverpool and Manchester, has been buzzing for the past two years.
Last season, Wrexham lost in the play-offs to miss out on promotion but made no mistake in dropping out of non-league a year later, where some teams are semi-professional.