This week, ahead of their Fourth Round FA Cup tie with Sheffield United, Wrexham went to the top of the National League. Six wins in a row has taken them clear of second place Notts County and Phil Parkinson is just 19 league matches away from achieving the ultimate goal: promotion back to the Football League after 15 years away.
But away from the rigours of the league campaign, this FA Cup game more than any other exhibits the huge progress the club has made since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney became owners of the club in February 2021. Live on BBC One, the Racecourse Ground will take centre stage as the Blades visit Wales.
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It’ll bring to light another one of Reynolds' and McElhenney’s big projects: the purchase and development of the world’s oldest international football stadium that was so nearly the downfall of this historic football club. Former chairman Alex Hamilton attempted to evict the team from the Racecourse Ground so he could develop the land into flats, and fans had to come together to save the club from extinction.
The club kept its head above water and the stadium doors stayed open - even if the ground has looked dilapidated. Since 2008 fans have been unable to stand on the famous Kop which used to hold up to 20,000 fans on a matchday. It’s been a three-sided ground since then, and the empty steps of the Kop have symbolised the club’s demise.
When the Hollywood duo bought the club, they planned to rebuild the stand and they’ve stuck to their word. Last summer the computer generated images of the redevelopment were released to the fans and now work has begun with the aim of being completed by the start of the 2024/25 season. Who knows what heights the Welsh club will have reached by then, but the signs on and off the pitch are incredibly positive.
It’s only been a short spell in charge, but they’ve come good on all their promises so far. Investment on the playing side of things has been made apparent and it’s a major reason why they sit top of the league, but the purchase of and redevelopment of the Racecourse Ground will be crucial in the club’s future success.
It’s a sign of the pair's commitment and passion for the club and the local area, which many outsiders questioned when they first came to town. They’ve already done more than enough and invested enough money to prove that this isn’t a flash in the pan job and they aren’t here to make a quick buck.
Instead, this is a long-term project to restore Wrexham to the Football League. And it’s one Reynolds and McElhenney have both completely fallen in love with. In an era where ‘businessmen’ such as Peter Swann at Scunthorpe and Steve Dale at Bury have completely destroyed football clubs, why has it taken two Hollywood stars to show them how to manage an asset sensibly?
They’ve put some of their fellow owners to shame with their contribution to, and understanding of, the local community. The FA Cup Fourth Round is their chance to show their work so far to the watching world. More eyeballs will be on the football club this weekend than at any other time during the new ownership and the fruits of their labour will be on display.
This might be a long-term project, which Reynolds and McElhenney are fully invested in, but it’s already bearing fruit in the short-term. A Fourth Round FA Cup appearance was unthinkable a few years ago and now the National League side are dreaming of another upset.
The FA Cup itself is a competition full of immeasurables. The passion, the upsets, the desire, the will to win. You simply cannot measure those intangibles in any way - and you certainly can’t quantify the ‘Magic of the Cup.’ But what you can quantify is the progress being made by Wrexham, on and off the pitch. New owners. New team. New Kop. Wrexham are going places.
*18+ | BeGambleAware