“Welcome to Wrexham:” A look inside the revitalization of a town and football club
As did its titular soccer club, “Welcome to Wrexham” just wrapped up a very successful first season under new management. The new FX show followed the 2021-2022 season of Wrexham AFC, a Welsh club purchased in November 2020 by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. From the first episode, the duo make it clear their goal is to grow their club’s brand. The result is a show that does an amazing job of being accessible to all viewers, even those who go in with no knowledge about soccer. While this does have its benefits, it also makes parts of the show feel tedious to those who come in with prior knowledge of the English soccer system.
The reason most would choose to tune in to “Welcome to Wrexham” is because of the star power leading the show. Ryan Reynolds is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and can draw an audience all by himself. When you add in Rob McElhenney, a creator and star of one of the longest running comedies of all time, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” you have yourself a show that is going to have an audience. But while they may be the reason people first tune in, Reynolds and McElhenney quickly become the weakest part of the show.
“Welcome to Wrexham” is made up of three storylines: Reynolds and McElhenney running the team, the team’s performance and the town of Wrexham, Wales. While these storylines are definitely connected, the beginning of the season is very Reynolds-and-McElhenney heavy. But as the season progresses they become less prominent with the team’s performance and the effect of Wrexham AFC on the town taking center stage.
While I do not doubt how much the club means to Reynolds and McElhenney and it is amazing what they have done for the town of Wrexham, some of their parts in the show, especially Reynolds’, feel very performative. For instance, during an episode where the focus was a single game, they constantly cut to an interview with Reynolds for his “live reaction” even though it is clear that the interview was that after the game. The show addresses this by having the team physiotherapist be upset when Reynolds delays practice to shoot a commercial. But it is shown to the audience in such a way that makes it seem like we are supposed to side with Reynolds and McElhenney doing whatever they can to grow the club’s brand. Despite how it’s presented, it’s hard not to feel that the two owners at times forget that the goal of the club is to win games.
While the Reynolds and McElhenney sections get more grating as the series progresses, the parts of the show focusing on the team and the town only get more engrossing. By the end of the first season, we get an in-depth look into the lives of a lot of the important Wrexham players: the homegrown young talent, an impactful defender, the goalkeeper and the two expensive attackers they signed.
Finding out more about the players that we are rooting for is one of the most intriguing parts of the entire show, but it does lead to a pretty big question. For a show that reveals almost everything about the team, why do we not know anything about the captain? Even if all they did was say that he asked not to be featured, that would be enough, but to not even mention the captain for the entire season makes the show feel that it is lacking something.
What “Welcome to Wrexham” does best is make the viewer understand the impact that sports can have. Framing how much the team means to the town by using McElhenney’s Eagles fandom was a great idea, as American viewers understand that Philadelphia sports fans live and die with their teams. We see the impact the team makes on the town throughout the season with the town coming alive as the team starts to turn their season around. Kids begin to start supporting Wrexham instead of the big premier league clubs, a big sign of the revitalization of the club.
The first season of “Welcome to Wrexham” was an undeniable success that was very enjoyable. Hopefully they learn from this season so next season sees Reynolds and McElhenney take a backseat to the team and town.