It’s one of the stories that is up there with the most bizarre things to happen in 2020. A-list pair Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have put their hands in their pockets to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, with the takeover official as of Monday, November 16th.
You’ll know Reynolds from his role as Deadpool and McElhenney as ‘Mac’ from hit comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but why are they swapping the red carpet for the spit and sawdust of the fifth tier of English football?
Well, to find out, we talked to Andy Gilpin, Wrexham editor for Reach PLC, and got his thoughts on the whirlwind situation at the Racecourse Ground.
Niall McCaughan: How you doing Andy?
Andy Gilpin: Not too bad, just processing a lot of what happened yesterday. We knew it was coming and that the vote was going to be a foregone conclusion, but just to see the level of interest in it was crazy. 5 Live did a big thing on us, there was ITV news, Sky Sports, Sky News, it’s surreal to have so much focus on your little club.
NM: How exciting is it as a supporter and what’s the feeling of riding this crest of a wave?
AG: It’s about putting it into context, and the context since we crashed out of the Football League in 2008 has been one of suffering. The club nearly went out of business twice, the last time in 2011 we were pretty close but the fans banded together and raised £150k to pay the bond in a matter of hours. I saw pictures of people taking their piggy banks into the local pub where it was being coordinated, that’s how much people wanted to save their club. On top of that, there was a couple of close shaves where we had a good team, we got 98 points one season but didn’t go up because Fleetwood got 103 points because Jamie Vardy was unstoppable. I was fed up of looking at his name by the end of that season.
NM: When do you think we’re going to see the fruits of Reynolds’ labour then?
AG: It ties into expectations. The worry is there’s a lot of talk about the documentary, there is. How much do they want to actually buy a football club and I say they because I know we’ve mentioned Ryan Reynolds but Rob McElhenney is a big driving part of this, so he’s the guy who created “[It’s] Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. Very very savvy businessman. That’s probably the longest running sitcom going in America at the moment, it’s very popular and he created it he’s very good at what he does, so what you need to wonder is how much do they want to buy a football club or how much they want to make a documentary? If it’s anywhere near 50/50, we’ve got a chance because this club is set up ready to go I don’t think anyone is thinking of the Premier League, no one’s thinking of Messi or Ronaldo, we’re nowhere near that – I’d be happy with Joe Ledley and a training ground with a flat pitch!
NM: Why Wrexham?
AG: I think it goes back to the documentary, they’re keen to do that. They probably were looking for a club that was ready to go. Wrexham were taken over by the fans back in 2011, they’ve got us on an even keel, they’ve looked after debts, they’ve got us a lease for the ground, good sponsorship deals. There’s plans in future for the redevelopment of one of the stands which has been derelict for a number of years. So if you’re coming in as an investor, you’re thinking ‘right, what can make good drama? What’s got a good back history? What is set up to make successful with a little push? I think Wrexham sits in the middle of that, I think it’s a very good proposition for people. There’s a decent playing squad there, the Wrexham Supporters Trust can only spend within their means, clubs like Fylde and Fleetwood have spent their way out of this division in the past, but it’s a gamble. It’s a tough league to get out of, only one is promoted and one goes up via the playoffs. So you can have a season like Wrexham where they got 98 points and still not go up. If they can come in and make a couple of good decisions; get a CEO we’ve been crying out for, have a look at the managerial question, thinking about making a decision there, bring in a couple of players on top of what we’ve already got, maybe revitalise the youth system maybe. If they do that then really and truly, they’ve got a really good going concern.
For more on the takeover, get the latest Football Social Daily podcast, where we asked each other which celebrities we’d like in charge of our clubs.Listen to “Should Giroud leave Chelsea, Liverpool injury crisis, Everton in focus and Hollywood takeovers”.