"It was a great performance and I'd like to dedicate that to one of their players, Tom Flanagan, who said that we were full of semi-pro players last year. So that one's for you, mate!"
Wrexham midfielder Elliot Lee’s comments after the 1-0 win over local rivals Shrewsbury Town drew a sigh from the wider football community. They were at it again. The social media team also added fuel to the fire, tweeting “winning on Shrewsbury’s big day out” at full-time, and although this was a big cross-border derby win, the Welsh side were hardly painting themselves in the best light.
This reaction comes from the mood that has been created within the squad. For the last three years now, they have been the club to be knocked down a peg or two. Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s investment and the Disney+ documentary that followed has drawn more eyes than ever to this football club, and every other team now wants to beat them.
This has given the squad a chip on their shoulder. They now play the role of the scrappy underdogs, the exact opposite of the truth. Lee was a Championship-level footballer before dropping into the National League with Wrexham. Steven Fletcher, Will Boyle, James McLean, Ollie Palmer and Paul Mullin have all been successful at a far higher level than the one Wrexham are currently at.
Their success has come from having the most money to spend on player wages, both in the National League and now in League Two. There’s no Disney fairy tale here, just another pay-to-win club climbing their way up the Football League. While North America has fallen in love with the story of Wrexham, and the wider audience has allowed the club to spend more money than their rivals, in England they have quickly become the EFL’s most unpopular club.
But is this a result of Reynolds and McElhenney’s actions, or was this simply an inevitable and unavoidable obstacle that would present itself at this point? In terms of the former, the duo, new to football when they took over, have barely put a foot wrong. They’ve galvanised the local community, won promotion back to the Football League and are in the process of rebuilding a new Kop stand which will take the club forward into a new era.
There is something grating about them taking players from higher up the pyramid and playing them in the lower leagues, but, when the whole club’s success depends on getting back into the EFL, you can see why they made that investment on the pitch for the short-term. Now, they have a real shot at another promotion, and the financial benefits continue to roll in as their worldwide fame grows.
If you are a Wrexham fan, they have been almost the perfect owners. And that is what will matter to Rob and Ryan, rather than the outside perspective of football fans who could well be deemed jealous of the club's modern success.
It feels like this was always going to be the case, that Wrexham’s worldwide popularity would make them disliked on their own doorstep. Arguably this is just the typical British reaction to this sort of thing. Build 'em up, knock 'em down. When it first started, the response was ‘Hey, what a story, this seems cool…’ Now that intrigue has turned to grating frustration as success has been injected into the club and the media coverage continues.
There’s a wide range of reasons for this u-turn in feeling in Britain. The pre-season US tour, where Wrexham played teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea, felt like a League Two team getting way ahead of their station. There’s a healthy dose of resentment now regarding the Welsh side, but that should be taken as a compliment by the Hollywood owners. It means they are doing something right.
This disdain for the club will only increase as they rise through the divisions and upset bigger football clubs. In society, British people have also always had a certain level of contempt when it comes to Americans, so the fact Wrexham are now drawing eyes from across the pond to ‘their sport’ is another contributing factor to this unpopularity.
There are some parallels between Salford City and Wrexham, given Salford were also a non-league side before having money poured into them by celebrities. They also had a documentary series which was incredibly popular, had money to spend and a cult following for joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley. But now they have been stuck in League Two for several years, have sacked five managers in five years and look more likely to drop out of the EFL than make it to League One.
The Class of 92 are still involved, but they are no longer the big Football League story, just another millionaires’ plaything. The big difference between the two clubs is that Salford were an artificially-inflated small club, with a small fanbase. Wrexham have maintained a good following, and have a huge catchment area that is now being galvanised. The Welsh side don’t have a ceiling due to their infrastructure, whereas it always felt like League One or League Two would be Salford’s limit.
For Rob and Ryan, being the EFL’s most unpopular club shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It should be seen as a clear indication they are doing things right. Nobody cares about Salford anymore because they aren’t winning football matches. Wrexham are, and promotion at the end of the season would be the next step on their seemingly inevitable rise.
Check out our other Football Betting Tips here.