Ben Foster's Retirement Reveals The Reality Of Wrexham 2.0

Wrexham are a storied club, not a stories club
15:00, 22 Aug 2023

Wrexham AFC’s journey under Hollywood owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has been nothing short of a fairytale. So much so that the Welsh club’s journey has played out in a documentary series on Disney+, surely the ultimate destination for rags-to-riches tales of heroism. 

But fairytales have endings. They do not lend themselves to the cyclical, never-stopping nature of the beautiful game. Football is more like a good night out. Just when it peaks, you have to go to sleep and awaken to the hangover. This is the situation Wrexham now find themselves in.


5-5 draws make for great segments in glossy, Mickey Mouse-sponsored documentaries. They make less agreeable viewing for football fans openly wondering why their team conceded five goals at home to Swindon Town. 

In the wake of that performance, 40-year-old goalkeeper Ben Foster has retired. The ex-Manchester United custodian has acknowledged he is not at the level required to play League Two football. It was a brave and honest decision from Foster. The goalkeeper has already retired once, in 2022 at the end of his contract with Watford. 

An injury to Wrexham shot-stopper Rob Lainton saw Foster return to the sport, and a club he had played for on-loan from United in 2005, in March 2023. A stoppage time penalty save in a 3-2 win over title rivals Notts County cemented him in folklore, and Disney+ canon. His big name, his burgeoning YouTube channel and interactions with the club’s superstar owners made him one of the more prominent faces at the Racecourse Ground. Ask your average fan to name a Wrexham player and he’d probably be behind only Paul Mullin in the running.

SM Ben Fosterjpg

But fairytales, even Disney ones, don’t always have happy endings. Foster’s retirement is a microcosm look at the journey Wrexham are on. Where once a sprinkling of stardust and a compelling narrative were enough, now they need to display the qualities of a league football club. Wrexham cannot risk being exposed as a collection of heart-warming tales surrounding big name players and global acting royalty. It’s all very well having Deadpool and Mac in the boardroom, but neither of them can play in goal.

Wrexham’s owners are learning just how serious this league football business is. They’ve conceded the most goals in the division, with 13. They have one win from their opening four games and sit 15th in the table. Not a disaster, but a wake-up call. Glitz and glamour will get you out of the National League. But they won’t keep you out.

There appears to have been an acknowledgment of this from messrs McElhenney and Reynolds. For a period, the Tinseltown twosome were perennially chasing unrealistic but headline-grabbing targets. They spoke of wanting to lure Gareth Bale out of retirement. There were links to the likes of ex-Man United free agent Phil Jones and 41-year-old ex-Blackburn man Morten Gamst Pedersen. A fine haul on a particularly outlandish Football Manager or FIFA save, but not the sort of window it takes to thrive in League Two.

Wrexham are discovering what it means to be a league club again. They are also, through their failed pursuits of yesterday’s men and the departure of Foster, finding out that what looks good in a documentary doesn’t always play out on the pitch. Wrexham are a storied club. What they are not, any more, is a stories club. Leave the fairytales to the House of Mouse.

wrexham are 13/10 to beat barrow*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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