Rob McElhenney’s tears could only mean one thing. The Racecourse Ground bubbled with emotion as Wrexham secured their return to the Football League with a 3-1 win over Boreham Wood.
Their 15-year absence from the top four tiers has been tough, with two second place finishes in that time seeing them fall foul of the limited automatic promotions places in the National League, but finally they have made it out.
The Ryan Reynolds story is one that has been told a thousand times over, but the North American duo do deserve praise. They are fully invested, not just financially but also emotionally, into the club and this small town in north Wales. The tears at full-time spoke volumes of just how much they wanted this, and now they can look to build on the building blocks they have put in place.
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Heavy investment has led them to promotion on the pitch, with the likes of Ollie Palmer and Paul Mullin joining from EFL clubs, but they’ve also put plans in place for long-term success. The Kop, left derelict for so many years, is being rebuilt and there's been significant improvement to the training facilities. With another season of Disney+ show ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ on the way, and a pre-season tour in the United States that will see them face Manchester United, the interest around the club is only heading one way. But what can we expect on the pitch over the next couple of seasons from Wrexham?
Well, League Two currently has the bonus of three automatic promotion slots, which makes life an awful lot easier for teams coming up from the National League. Given only the champions go up from the fifth tier, you have to be absolutely exceptional to get out of it, which means they tend to perform well the following season in League Two.
Stockport County are perhaps the most recent example that Wrexham are likely to follow. They had a decent budget as they won the National League, beating the Welsh side by six points, and after a slow start - are now up to fourth in League Two. Led by Dave Challinor, they are just one point off third with two to play and promotion remains a real possibility.
The other team that came up last season, Grimsby Town, through the play-offs, have also coped well, with very little investment by comparison. The Mariners led by Paul Hurst are currently 13th in the league and proving once again that barring utter disaster, it is almost impossible to be relegated from League Two in your first season as a newly-promoted team.
🎥: Paul Rudd
cc: @wrexham_afc - @RMcElhenney
Hartlepool United are set to drop back into the National League in their second season however, although that club has been run on a backdrop of uncertainty, with more managers than you can shake a stick at over the past twelve months. However, the most comparable side to come up from the fifth tier in recent years may well be Salford City.
The Class of 92 side are not anywhere near as big as Wrexham but they did invest heavily to try and get out of League Two. They’ve been knocking on the door for a few seasons but haven’t yet made it into the play-offs, until this year. They’ve found it more difficult than they first thought, but they also didn’t win the league in their promotion season.
Looking at the National League champions may be an easier predictor.
Stockport County are gunning for promotion, Sutton United have established themselves as a top half team this term, as have 2019/20 champions Barrow. The season before that, Leyton Orient won the National League and this term, they’ve won League Two in emphatic fashion.
This group of previous champions prove that League Two success is achievable. And none of them have the backing or hype around them that Wrexham do. Promotion next season has to be the aim for the Welsh side.
This summer is likely to see more heavy recruitment from other League Two teams or above. Wrexham are on the rise, and they will be competing in the division with the most promotion places in the top four tiers. After what they’ve been through getting out of the National League, this should be a doddle.