'Spoiler. It will be some watch': Alistair Burt reviews 'Welcome to Wrexham: Season 2'
Image courtesy of Disney+
The endearing tale of two Hollywood stars who try to turn around the fortunes of a struggling Welsh football club, Welcome to Wrexham is an authentic roller-coaster of tension that no fan of the game will fail to relate to
Whether or not you are a sports fan, you may know what has been happening to Wrexham AFC in the past couple of years. One of the world’s oldest professional clubs, with a proud history at senior level, it fell out of the English Football League (EFL) in 2008. But deep in the quicksand of non-league football, which is hard to escape, they were bought by two movie and TV actors, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, in 2020. Being Hollywood stars, they then did what they knew best, and began an unflinching documentary series about their club, and their attempts to win promotion back to the EFL.
Welcome to Wrexham is the result, and is just commencing its second series. It begins after the disappointments of the 2021-22 season, and will tell the story of their next year.
Spoiler. It will be some watch. It is clear that the owners have become captivated by the community of Wrexham, the title music reminding viewers of the importance of place and history, which forms such an important bond between all supporters and their football clubs. The story is endearingly and emotionally told – not by documentary voice-over but by the Wrexham community itself. It is not saccharine. Football has winners and losers, and in the end, winning is about Wrexham’s survival into the future, so feelings are sometimes pretty raw. Interviews with the many people connected with the club – the airing of fans’ opinions and dressing room scenes with manager Phil Parkinson – are not for the faint-hearted. But they are authentic and give some sense of the ways in which peoples’ lives can become completely enmeshed in what happens on a football pitch.
No fan of the game will fail to recognise themselves at some point, not least by sympathising with the woman who wonders with a despairing sigh, “Why do we have to like football – why couldn’t it have been something else?” But it isn’t, and it won’t be, ever, for them, or any of us helplessly hooked on the game.
No fan of the game will fail to recognise themselves at some point
While it is no Match of the Day, the football sequences are well filmed, and there is enough action on the pitch to enjoy. The drama comes from the games themselves, against opponents who have no wish to be the gallant losers in someone else’s story and want to write their own history for their own fans. The resulting tension on the field, and the roller coaster 90 minutes of contrasting fortunes shown on the faces and in the voices of all, would make a scriptwriter throw down the pen, unable to better real life.
Wrexham comes out well in all this. Proud people, unwilling to give up and whose identity is fused into the club’s status. And so do Reynolds and McElhenney, whose hearts have been touched by opening a window on the soul of a community and its expectations, and who have reminded everyone that, well away from the elite, the game itself is bigger than all.
Alistair Burt is former Conservative MP for Bury North, and North East Bedfordshire – and sometime Westminster Wobbler FC
Welcome to Wrexham: Season 2
Executive producers: Rob McElhenney & Ryan Reynolds
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