How Wrexham, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney celebrated back-to-back promotions

There ain’t no party like a Wrexham party. This was certainly the case 12 months ago, when 15 long years of non-League hurt finally came to an end in spectacular fashion to spark celebrations that lasted the best part of a fortnight.

Twelve months on, the club owned by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has been at it again. League One now awaits after Phil Parkinson’s side created history last weekend by sealing back-to-back promotions.

As the 1,700 supporters who made the short trip to Crewe Alexandra on Saturday lunchtime made clear, a return to a level the club last played at in 2005 means the world. “Town are going up, ole ole…” they sang over and over again, the party having started early for those making the short hop over the border into England.

Some had arrived sporting cardboard cut-out masks of Parkinson, executive director Humphrey Ker and even Wrexham’s longest-serving member of staff, club secretary Geraint Parry, plus a few Disney characters.

This, and a dominant 3-0 away win, made for a joyous atmosphere in the spring sunshine. Whether the scenes in Crewe — and a jubilant Racecourse Ground the previous weekend as promotion was clinched — were quite on a par with 2023, however, is open to debate.

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Mullin celebrating at the Racecourse (Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

Certainly, there hasn’t been quite the same sense of relief or outpouring of emotion that had greeted the escape from the National League. Nevertheless, this has still been a week to savour for a club that, thanks to its glamorous owners, tends to do things differently from the rest.

Who else in the EFL, for instance, will have had their promotion marked in Hollywood by a hastily reconfigured birthday card from Oscar-winning actor Kenneth Branagh? Or seen their manager make his acting debut in a commercial to publicise Major League Baseball coming to London just a couple of days after receiving a standing ovation from grateful Wrexham fans on entering his local pub on the English border.

Then there’s how another Reynolds-inspired video went viral just as the promotion celebrations got going, this time with a Titanic theme that included co-owner McElhenney being drawn in the famous pose adopted by Kate Winslet in the 1997 film.

It may not always be sunny in Wrexham. But it’s rarely ordinary.

Sunday, Wrexham.

Paul Mullin is in a familiar pose, arms out wide and basking in the adoration of Wrexham supporters. Only this time the location is different from the usual place of worship at The Racecourse.

He’s in the Fat Boar pub along with almost the entire squad who, a little over 24 hours earlier, had booked that ticket to League One. They’ve been here since lunchtime, initially enjoying a few beers together watching the football in a private upstairs room before joining the fans downstairs.

As is to be expected of a team celebrating, everyone is in good spirits as singer Matty Carroll, having postponed a planned date night with his wife to entertain the players, treats the throng to some indie classics.

Eventually, he launches into “Weekend in Paradise” by Liverpudlian Jamie Webster. This is Mullin’s cue to lead the singing from up on high, the star striker quickly clambering onto a table.

Was it a pointless three-day bender,Or a weekend in Paradise, my friend?

The answer to the pay-off line in the chorus delivered by Mullin seems obvious to those present. Wrexham and their players are basking in a footballing paradise after a remarkable couple of years.

Thousands of miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic, co-owners Reynolds and McElhenney have been enjoying their own more muted celebrations in between filming duties.

For Reynolds, this includes being handed a greeting card with ‘happy birthday’ scrawled out and replaced by a congratulatory note about promotion. British actor Branagh, starring alongside the Canadian in the upcoming film Mayday, nipped out to buy the card and made the changes himself.

McElhenney was also busy working on series four of Apple TV+ show Mythic Quest. His mind, however, was never far from events unfolding in Wales. Parkinson received a call from Los Angeles not long after completing Saturday’s on-field lap of honour with his team after the Forest Green triumph.

Considering the timely ‘We’re right behind you, Phil’ text message of support sent by the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star after September’s 5-0 thrashing by Stockport, it felt fitting that the two men should share another happier moment.

By then, the players’ celebrations were well underway in the dressing room. As beer was sprayed and songs chanted, several trays of food laid out to aid post-match nutrition levels fell victim to the carnage. This explains why TV viewers are later treated to the unusual sight of sliced lettuce being flung around with abandon during their early evening news bulletins.

Things became a little more sedate once the party moved to The Centenary Club, which is where the players’ friends and families can be found before and after home matches.

Again there was a much more relaxed vibe than the previous year, when Reynolds and McElhenney had been on hand. After beating Boreham Wood, some of the team poured beers for themselves directly from the bar pumps as “Sweet Caroline” and “American Pie” boomed around the 1864 Suite on the opposite side of the stadium.

Some of the squad then continued the party in town, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Anthony Forde among those later spotted belting out stirring Welsh anthem Yma o Hyd at a local karaoke bar in the early hours of Sunday.

Come lunchtime, the players reassembled at the Fat Boar. Only Arthur Okonkwo, the Arsenal loanee who attended the EFL awards night after being named in the League Two team of the year, and the injured Jacob Mendy were absent.

Elliot Lee, also named in that team of the year, was present, having decided he’d rather stick around than attend the awards night at London’s Grosvenor Hotel.

Such a show of togetherness is no surprise. The same happened last year, the players descending on the Fat Boar en masse the lunchtime after clinching the National League title before some started to drift home during the evening.

This year, no one leaves early. This includes Mullin, who leads the singing beyond 10pm. Later, a few decamp to The Parish, a music venue that’s just a short stroll away. Here, captain Ben Tozer joins Will Boyle and Andy Cannon in continuing the party with the club’s supporters.

Even though Tozer is booked to appear on Talksport’s breakfast show in the morning, he’s enjoying himself too much to go home just yet. As well he might. There’s no training in the morning after Parkinson has told his players to take Monday off.

His offer isn’t quite as generous as the previous year. Back then, the players didn’t return to training until the Thursday after clinching the title. That left just two days to prepare for the trip to already relegated Torquay United, where some players spent the afternoon of the match riding the local Ferris wheel.

Now, though, Parkinson is well aware of the need to protect the integrity of League Two, with Crewe not yet guaranteed a play-off spot. This stance also explains why the manager spent Tuesday evening at Notts County, scouting final-day opponents Stockport County as they clinched the title with a 5-2 win.

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Parkinson was taken aback by the promotion on the day (Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

The players’ early return compared to the previous year also backs up the sense that this promotion, while hugely enjoyable and rewarding after a demanding season, isn’t quite on par with ending the club’s long exile from the EFL. Certainly, the scenes haven’t been anywhere near as frenzied.

In many ways, the big moment rather crept up on the club. Few genuinely expected both MK Dons and Barrow to drop points that Saturday, with even Parkinson taken by surprise.

“I’d heard the fans reacting to the scorelines coming in from elsewhere,” he says. “But, genuinely, my mind was set on going to Crewe needing something to finish the job.”

Only when the 56-year-old turned to son George, the club’s analyst, in the technical area with two minutes of the Forest Green match remaining did he realise that the race was almost run. “It all felt a bit surreal at the final whistle as the fans invaded the pitch,” he adds. “Things don’t often fall into place like that when you’re reliant on other results, as well as your own.”

Last Sunday also saw Reynolds take to social media to continue the series of birthday pranks between the two co-owners that last October included a new park in the centre of Wrexham dedicated to the Deadpool star.

His response came via Sunday’s Titanic-themed video message — April 14 being the date the vessel struck an iceberg before sinking into the sea in 1912 — to mark McElhenney’s 47th birthday.

The footage included a hand-drawn portrait of a shirtless McElhenney adopting Winslet’s famous nude pose in the 1997 movie Titanic, complete with the fictional Heart of the Ocean necklace.

A couple of days later came the promotional video for June’s Major League Baseball series in London that had been shot at the SToK Cae Ras before last month’s defeat to Tranmere Rovers, featuring the mascots for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. Parkinson was joined on screen by striker Ollie Palmer and Wayne Jones, landlord of The Turf pub.

After that, things returned to normal. Or as normal as things get these days in north Wales. Tuesday saw the players back in for a light training session. Then came their usual Wednesday off, followed by a much more strenuous session as the tempo was stepped up ahead of facing Crewe, who went into their final home game knowing victory would be enough to guarantee a play-off place.

This determination to finish on a high explains why Wrexham’s players stayed overnight at a hotel in the Crewe area, to ensure they were in the best possible shape come kick-off.

It did the trick, as Ollie Palmer’s first league goal since November and a delicate lofted finish from Paul Mullin set Wrexham on their way to a comfortable victory.

Andy Cannon adds another after the break after Crewe’s Ryan Cooney was dismissed for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and such is the control exerted by the visitors across every area of the pitch that there’s no need this time for a dramatic Hollywood ending. Not that anyone cares.

The job was done a week earlier, as the fans make clear at the final whistle via yet another rendition of, “Town are going up, ole ole….”.

(Top photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

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