Wrexham were to bring a rare sprinkling of stardust to the fifth tier of English soccer as they were to begin their National League campaign at Solihull Moors yesterday.
The club from the market town and former mining hub in northeast Wales only missed the promotion playoffs for a place in the Football League by one point last season, but that is not the reason for the upsurge in optimism.
Wrexham have surprising new owners and while most fans in Britain dread Americans taking over their clubs, ahead of the game — which was to begin shortly after press time last night — at Wrexham, the signs are good.
One of them is also very big.
Last weekend, huge white letters imitating the famous Hollywood sign, but spelling out “WREXHAM,” appeared above the town, although, instead of the sun-kissed hills above Tinsel Town, the sign rests on the slagheap of a disused coalmine.
It emerged on Friday that the sign had been paid for by the sponsors of the National League.
In February, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, two Hollywood movers and shakers, bought the club, saying they wanted to turn it into a “global force.”
Reynolds, a Canadian, is a Hollywood A-lister, the star of Deadpool and the former husband of Scarlett Johansson.
McElhenney has a less glitzy filmography, but has produced long-running US TV hit It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Now the pair face the more difficult task of making Wrexham sunny.
The club has a proud history, but has never come close to being a “global force.”
Until this year, its most famous name was Joey Jones, who became the first Welshman to win the European Cup when he was with Liverpool, but had three spells and 270 games at Wrexham.
Wrexham played in the Football League from 1921 to 2009, reaching the second division for four seasons in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before they were exiled from the Welsh Cup because they opted to remain in the English leagues, Wrexham appeared eight times in the old Cup Winners Cup, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Anderlecht in the quarter-finals in 1976.
They have been stuck among English soccer’s barely noticed since 2009.
Yet star power is drawing in fans.
The club halted season-ticket sales at 5,500 at the 10,500-capacity Racecourse Ground.
In the 2019-2020 season, Wrexham drew an average of 4,057 people per game.
Promoting his latest blockbuster, Free Guy, Reynolds found himself in the unusual position, for a Hollywood actor, of discussing Wrexham.
“Well, first off, super excited,” he told a news conference this month. “I mean, we’ve made no secret of that. It’s the role of a lifetime for both me and for Rob McElhenney.”
He also made clear he was aware of British fans’ suspicion of Americans.
“I wouldn’t dare call it soccer,” he said. “I care about my well-being enough to not call it soccer.”
Wrexham were to begin their season yesterday after their opening home game was canceled when opponents Yeovil reported COVID-19 cases in their squad.
So far, Wrexham have shown no interest in joining the other glamor clubs in chasing Lionel Messi or Harry Kane, but among the summer dealings, which brought in players from Morecambe, Port Vale and Cefn Druids, they also hired manager Phil Parkinson, whose last job was in charge of Sunderland.
“We’ve got to live with that expectancy,” Parkinson told the Guardian this week. “The owners are very genuine. They’ve got an incredible passion about what they want to achieve... They want to win.”
Reynolds is not the only Hollywood star getting into soccer.
Eva Longoria owns stakes in Nexaca in Mexico and, like Natalie Portman, in Angel City, a Los Angeles women’s team.
Will Ferrell, Matthew McConaughey and Drew Carey own stakes in Major League Soccer franchises.
In the 1950s and 1960s baseball was fashionable.
Bing Crosby invested in the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bob Hope in the Cleveland Indians, Danny Kaye in the Seattle Mariners.
Bill Murray has a stake in the minor-league St Paul Saints.
In the Premier League yesterday, Liverpool defeated Burnley 2-0, with Diogo Jota netting in the 18th minute and Sadio Mane doubling the lead in the 69th minute.
Additional reporting by staff writer
It is the world’s longest certified foot race: a 4,989km run that takes participants around the same New York block 5,649 times. Thousands of people have climbed Everest — but just 49 have completed the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, organizers say. Runners finish more than two marathons a day for almost two months, on less than five hours of sleep a night. They cannot rely on changing scenery to keep them motivated as the route is a 883m loop on a concrete sidewalk around a high school in Jamaica, Queens. To mix things up a bit, they alternate between running clockwise
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter on Friday posted a new video denouncing China’s human rights record regarding Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. The video came two days after Kanter, who has a history of speaking out against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of his native Turkey, condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Tibet in a similar video, prompting a backlash in China. “Heartless Dictator of China, XI JINPING and the Communist Party of China. I am calling you out in front of the whole world. Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!” Kanter wrote on Twitter. “Stop the
A driver lost control during a Texas drag racing event on an airport runway on Saturday, slamming into a crowd of spectators, killing two children and injuring eight other people, authorities said. A six-year-old boy and an eight-year-old boy were killed in the crash at the Airport Race Wars Two event at the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, police said in a news release. The organized event was attended by thousands and involved drivers speeding down a runway as they competed for cash. The driver “lost control and left the runway, crashing into parked vehicles and striking spectators who were observing the races,” Kerville police
ALMOST THERE: Lai Li-chin sealed the 4-0 victory with two goals in the second half, but the national women’s team must still beat Bahrain to qualify for the Asian Cup The national women’s soccer team began their qualifying round for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Monday with a 4-0 victory over Laos in Bahrain. The victory lifted Taiwan to the top of Group A, and if they manage to beat hosts Bahrain on Sunday, they would qualify for the Women’s Asian Cup from Jan. 20 to Feb. 6 next year. Ranked 40th in the world and eighth in Asia, Taiwan are the favorites in their group, ahead of 85th-ranked Bahrain. Laos are making their first appearance in the qualifiers. However, Taiwan have not qualified for the Asian Cup since 2008. Ten of the