Inside Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s Great Wrexham Gambit

Into March, Wrexham kept winning. Mullin maintained his form, and his partner Ollie Palmer was just as prolific. Spurred by Mullin and Palmer, Wrexham routinely ran up tallies of four, five, six goals in a game. At one point (a feat almost as improbable on paper as Leicester City’s championship run), modest Wrexham had scored more goals in 2022 than most of the giants of Europe, Liverpool, and Barcelona included. “Deadpool, Deadpool, what’s the score? 3-0, 2-1, 2-0, 4-1, 2-0. On a hot streak, Wrexham climbed to second place in their league. When they won a sixth game in succession, McElhenney was watching from a back lot in Studio City, headphones around his neck, halfway through directing an episode of Mystic Quest. Meanwhile, in Wales, the musician Michael Hett immortalized Wrexham’s six-game streak in song. Quickly his lyrics were outdated. Wrexham won a seventh.

They drew their next game, then went on another run of victories. The players seemed to have imbibed from their owners a talent for the dramatic. In early April, Reynolds jetted to Wales to watch a game that almost finished goalless. Mullin scored in the dying moments, keeping Wrexham’s latest streak alive—at which point Reynolds turned to a colleague beside him and burst into tears. Here was the recipient of a Canadian medal of honor, an investor whose portfolio was so diverse I once heard McElhenney mistakenly accept that Reynolds owned a piece of an actual mountain (instead of the ad tech company MNTN). With all he had, with all he’d done, Reynolds described that Mullin winner as “a top-10 life moment.”

When Wrexham thrashed the best team in the league, Stockport, and leaped over them into first place, a championship seemed not only possible but probable. There was one week left of the regular season left to play. Why not Wrexham?

Because this sport, the most popular on the planet, one of the oldest, purest, most accessible pursuits we have, can be a mean and contrary bastard too. Because football seems to defer its traps, keeping back twists until late in a season to maximize heartbreak. Because that round checked ball might look innocent, but do not be fooled, it knows when you’ve come to believe, it knows when you’ve let down your guard, it remembers weaknesses, it is the Count of Monte Cristo, it is Arnie’s first Terminator, it is Leo’s Revenant, and it will get you. Because Ryan Reynolds shed tears of love for his team in full public view, and by doing so he showed football how much he cared.

That May, a team called Boreham Wood—technically inferior to Wrexham and further reduced by a red card—somehow rallied late in a game to score a penalty. Had Wrexham held on a few minutes more they would likely have gone on to win the league. As it happened, no, the fatal turning point came with a bit of carelessness on a week night in Boreham Wood, as Reynolds was dressing for the Met Gala in New York and McElhenney the game via laptop in LA Stockport were soon confirmed followed as league champions. Second-place finishers, Wrexham had a chance to join them in promotion, but only if they could fight their way out of a playoff.

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