Nani, Bale And The Transfer Bonanza: Why Wrexham Must Avoid Becoming Soccer Aid

Big names are noticing Wrexham. Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney would do well to ignore them
08:00, 16 Jun 2023

There is plenty to get excited about at The Racecourse Ground these days. Owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have backed up their injection of Hollywood glamour with tangible improvements. The Red Dragons returned to the EFL for the first time since 2008 after winning the National League. Garnering 111 points in the process, it was a banner season for Wales’ unlikely Tinseltown success story.

While the boardroom was decidedly A-list, the realities of non-league football meant the playing staff was more down-home. Ben Foster returning from retirement added a big name but the ex-Manchester United goalkeeper is 40 now and splits his time between football and YouTube. Paul Mullin was a major get for this level, having scored 32 goals to propel Cambridge United to League One the year before he moved to the Racecourse. Ollie Palmer took a similar leap of faith down from League One MK Dons two seasons before Wrexham’s promotion.


These players were mightily impressive for National League and even League Two level. But there was no one among them with the starpower to rival the fact Deadpool and Mac were overseeing operations. However, the club’s Disney+ captured rags-to-riches story has put them on the radar of some big names. 

The weeks leading up to, and following, promotion have seen all manner of talents linked. Euro 2016 hero Hal Robson-Kanu offered to come out of retirement. Fevered talk surrounded Gareth Bale, stoked by the Wrexham owners themselves cajoling the goal-loving winger on social media. Foster even joined in the fun. During Soccer Aid, the shot-stopper tried to convince ex-Old Trafford teammate Nani to join the Wrexham cause.

It doesn’t stop there. Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater are among other players being linked with a move there. You’ll notice by now a pattern emerging surrounding these talents. All are ageing ex-Premier League names whose best days are behind them. They are mostly also players who haven’t played at this level for a long time, if at all. These truths could present problems down the line.


A fading but experienced veteran can do wonders for a team in the lower leagues. Attendances increase as locals are won over by a legendary figure. Their experience can be a huge benefit to young players still striving to reach the top. The performances can also look back to their best in a lower league when compared with trying to win Premier League battles on ageing legs. 

But for all the benefits you get signing an older player, you wouldn’t want an entire team of them. Overexcited news outlets seem keen to tie the Wrexham project to every over-34 to have played Premier League football in their career. While one or two such names would be of benefit to the dressing room, that’s not how Wrexham got were they are.

Reynolds and McElhenney fired Wrexham back to league football by building a team to get out of the National League. Now they must replicate that strategy again. Use the injection of cash from lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of United Airlines and SToK Cold Brew Coffee to free up the FFP space to manoeuvre. Then look to sign players who are too good for the league now, rather than a decade ago. Look to recruit League One standard players, lower-half Championship players. Perhaps bolster with the odd Premier League loanee enticed by the project, but mostly you want to secure players who know this level and are good at playing within it.

Keep growing at this rate and soon Wrexham won’t have to settle for semi-retired starpower. If the owners’ long-term aim of Premier League football is attained, there will be a queue round the Racecourse to sign for the club. But for now Wrexham would do well to regard the example of Salford City. 

With their funding partly coming from Manchester United’s iconic youth vintage; The Class of 92, the Ammies flew through the non-league pyramid in a wave of expensive euphoria. But for the past four seasons they have remained rooted in League Two, unable to continue what was once a meteoric rise. Like Salford, Wrexham are among the richer teams in their division. But the happenings at The Peninsula Stadium should be heeded by the actors-turned-owners in Wales.

The Wrexham story is special. While the expense involved or the slickly-produced documentary won’t be for everyone, there is no doubt that Wrexham have captured imaginations. But it is important to remember that those imaginations were caught by the club, the owners, the players and the journey. Beware of mercenaries or outside forces trying to make this club something it isn’t. Your goalkeeper might have played in it, but that doesn’t make Wrexham into Soccer Aid.

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