Rob McElhenney hails the latest chapter in Wrexham's fairytale
‘Wow. Just… wow!’: Wrexham’s Hollywood owner Rob McElhenney hails the latest chapter in Wrexham’s fairytale after shock 4-3 FA Cup win over Championship side Coventry – which left co-owner Ryan Reynolds ‘totally speechless’
- Relive the action as Wrexham beat Championship side Coventry in the FA Cup
- The club’s Hollywood owners have invested £2million into the non-league club
- Some 4,500 away fans made the trip to the Coventry Building Society Arena
- READ: FA Cup fourth round draw in full – Wrexham will take on Sheffield United
For once, Ryan Reynolds had no words. ‘I’m completely and totally speechless. What a club. What a town. What a win,’ he tweeted in the aftermath of a triumph which restored Wrexham’s giantkilling touch.
‘Wow. Just… wow,’ was Rob McElhenney’s more succinct take. This strand of the club’s rich history is certainly not lost on the Hollywood co-owners.
Footage of young match-winner Steve Watkin being shouldered from the field after what will always be known as the Mickey Thomas match, against Arsenal in the 1992 third round, features in the opening credits of their hit Welcome to Wrexham documentary.
Rob McElhenney was taken aback by his side’s win over Coventry, tweeting ‘Wow. Just… wow’
Wrexham beat Championship side Coventry City 4-3 to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup
That tie was part of a highlights reel consisting of five games from their Racecourse ground, sent to the pair before their takeover.
But the old competition takes the club, its place and its people to places even beyond the imagination of Reynolds and co-chairman McElhenney, whose vision for football club ownership has been extraordinary.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Coventry City (3-4-1-2) Moore 3.5; Bidwell 5, Panzo 4, Rose 4.5; Burroughs 6 (Kane 70min, 6), Sheaf 7, Kelly 6.5 (Hamer 70, 6), Dabo 6; K Palmer 8.5; Tavares 5 (Gyokeres 34, 8), Waghorn 6 (Allen 70, 6).
Scorers: Sheaf 36, Gyokeres 69, Palmer 76.
Booked: Rose, Bidwell.
Sent off: Panzo
Manager: Mark Robins 5.
Wrexham (3-5-2) Howard 6; Cleworth 6, Tozer 6.5, Tunnicliffe 6; Hall-Johnson 6 (Forde, 81), Young 6.5, O’Connor 8, Lee 6.5 (Jones 81), McFadzean 6 (McAlinden 73 6); Dalby 7.5, Mullin 6.5 (O Palmer 68, 6).
Scorers: Dalby 12, Lee 18, O’Connor 45+6, Mullin 58 (pen).
Booked: Dalby, Mullin, Young, McAlinden.
Manager: Phil Parkinson 8.
Referee: Tom Nield 7.
The 4,500 Wrexham fans who out-sang and outnumbered the locals as rain swept across the stadium before kick-off referenced McElhenney, who features in the lyrics of an anthem about the rescue of the club and their ‘famous old stadium crumbling down’.
But it was broadly the same repertoire that has been sung right through the difficult years, during which the songs grew a little fainter. The anthems feature Wales, promotion and fluffy sheep — the latter sung ironically, not appreciatively.
It has taken McElhenney and Reynolds to bring back the volume, of course. The £2million they have invested allowed the team to go head-to-head with a Coventry side who are standing precisely where Wrexham were 20 years ago — wondering who their next owner will be and whether they will have a home next season.
In some ways, this felt like Championship v League One, given that two of the biggest threats in Wrexham’s starting line-up — Paul Mullin and Elliot Lee — arrived from that level and Ollie Palmer, signed from AFC Wimbledon, was on the bench.
But what has happened since their takeover is far more complex than salaries, contracts and financial transactions. McElhenney and Reynolds are storytellers who foresaw that the effect of a thriving football club on the people of a struggling working-class town was perhaps the greatest gift of all. It’s the community, not just the club, they have brought out into the light.
That was why nine coaches rolled up early from north Wales, the Wrexham players were greeted like superstars and the noise in the draughty stadium transcended anything Coventry manager Mark Robins had known. ‘They’ve brought 4,000 fans with them and that’s the noisiest I’ve ever heard in this stadium,’ Robins said. As Reynolds put it later: ‘The travelling support are the big beating heart of this win.’
Wrexham pulled off one of the biggest upsets across the FA Cup third round weekend
Coventry made a major late contribution when, after an hour of atrocious defending, Swedish striker Viktor Gyokeres arrived from the bench to terrorise Wrexham, who were growing leggy. He and the excellent Kasey Palmer took them from the humiliation of a 4-1 deficit with 10 men to the brink of a late equaliser. But the side 60 places and three divisions below them held out.
A cup run certainly complicates Wrexham’s desperate quest to get back to the Football League. They’re undefeated in 18 games but Notts County opened up a five-point lead on them at the top of the National League on Saturday, having played two games more. It is the most difficult domestic division to escape, with only one automatic promotion spot. ‘Play-offs’ are an unspeakable word at Wrexham after last season’s 5-4 defeat by Grimsby.
But no one is thinking that way. Parkinson reflected that having the documentary cameras around might have helped his players deal with pressure.
There were 4,500 Wrexham fans in attendance, out-singing the local Coventry supporters
‘Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve been under a lot of spotlight for players at this level,’ he said. ‘We’ve had a camera crew following us around all the time and everywhere we go away from home it’s the club’s biggest crowd of the season — the full house. There’s a lot of expectancy. We can deal with that.’
From McElhenney and Reynolds’ perspective, the Cup has been a way of beaming their team across the world. When ESPN2 screened their fourth qualifying round tie at Blyth Spartans, the audience averaged 89,000, more than a rival US channel’s coverage of the final matchday of the MLS season.
At a moment like this, non-league clubs traditionally dream of an away tie at a Premier League club and the 50 per cent gate receipts.
Manager Phil Parkinson hopes to welcome a ‘big club’ to Wrexham’s Racecourse ground
Ahead of the 1992 Arsenal tie, Wrexham manager Brian Flynn was told he would only get a hunk of cash if the team drew and earned a replay at Highbury. ‘Steve Watkin’s winner did me there!’ Flynn reflected. But Parkinson had no such thoughts. ‘Personally, I would like a big club at the Racecourse,’ he said.
‘I know the financial implications of playing away but there’s a really special atmosphere at the Racecourse. Our supporters deserve that.’
Sunday’s draw paired them with Sheffield United, second in the Championship and chasing promotion to the Premier League. Tickets for the home tie will be like gold dust.
For McElhenney, this is all part of a far bigger picture. ‘We’re just getting started,’ he tweeted.
Rob McElhenney hinted that Wrexham are ‘just getting started’ after the win over Coventry
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