“Thought It Was a Joke” – Former Wrexham Manager Reflects On Club’s Takeover

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have done amazing things since taking over Wrexham in November of 2020, but many felt the takeover was a joke when they first heard about it.

One of those people who felt that way was former Wrexham manager Dean Saunders, who genuinely didn’t believe the interest in the club from the two Hollywood stars was legitimate.

“I thought it was a joke when I heard Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney were taking over Wrexham. A lot of people tried to buy the club during my time there. I think the owner of Direct Line was interested, and I thought even that was a joke.”

“I wondered what Reynolds and McElhenney’s intentions were and why they chose Wrexham. I knew the catchment area between Wrexham, Newport County, and Cardiff, and it’s a three-hour journey with no English Football League clubs in between. There’s a massive catchment area between the cities, and they also have Chester, Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, and Stoke poaching the best Wrexham players from the satellite academies.”

Since then, Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover has proven to be anything but a joke. A failed attempt at promotion in the first season was followed by one of the most memorable campaigns in National League history last season when the Red Dragons pipped Notts County to win promotion to League Two for the first time in 15 years. Saunders is appreciative of the work the pair have put in during their reign as owners so far.

“I thought the owners chose the club because they could see the potential – and they’ve done so much for both the town and the football team. I think they’ve been brilliant. Reynolds and McElhenney also seem like good men. They’ve pumped money into the local community and the club. They’ve also managed to get out of the National League without having to go through the playoffs.”

The Deadpool actor and his partner from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have invested big in the club and its infrastructure during their time there, recently building a new temporary Kop Stand in the stadium to increase the capacity on match day. They seem to have a genuine love for the Welsh club and its people, and it seems something they truly care about as opposed to something they want to buy and play around with

Wrexham currently sit second in the League Two table, two points behind leaders Stockport County with a game in hand. The Championship is now beginning to look like a realistic aim within the next few years, which is something Saunders always believed was possible with the club.

“When I was managing Wrexham, I always believed that I could get them into the Championship. I remember thinking that we’d get 15,000 fans in for games in that league, but you’d have to double that now.”

Saunders was at Wrexham as a manager between 2008-2011 and came very close to getting the Welsh side out of the National League. His side accumulated 98 points in the league, finishing second. They were then beaten by a Luton Town side in the play-offs, who have now gone on to achieve something the Red Dragons will be hoping to emulate in the coming years—the holy grail of the Premier League.

“I took Wrexham to the playoffs after getting 98 points in the league. We faced Luton, and we couldn’t manage to get past them. Play-off games are about who’s better on the day, which can be hard to accept after such a successful season.”

The former Liverpool striker revealed that he had a restrictive playing budget during his time at the Racecourse, as well as working under other restraints.

“My playing budget was only £695,000! I was at Wrexham for almost three years, and I was able to mould my own squad. I had ups and downs during that period where I may have been sacked after a bad run, but I never did.”

“People don’t realise that some National League players can’t afford to play full-time as they have day jobs that pay them more than being a player does. There’s also the issue of the contracts in football – you’ll be out of a job if the manager gets rid of you.”

The former Wrexham manager had a very impressive career as a player himself. The Welsh striker made his debut for Swansea City in the second division back in the 1983-84 season. During his time as a footballer, he played for the likes of Liverpool and Aston Villa, as well as periods abroad at clubs like Galatasaray and Benfica.

At international level, the 59-year-old scored 22 goals in 75 caps for his country. Saunders retired from playing football in 2001 and didn’t begin managing until 2008, when he took over Wrexham. He finished his managerial career at Chesterfield in 2015, having managed Wolverhampton Wanderers, Doncaster Rovers and Crawley Town.

Saunders was talking to Instant Casino.

Writer’s View

A lot of people were initially shocked by Reynolds and McElhenny’s decision to buy a National League club, but it’s since proven to be a stroke of genius. Saunders wasn’t alone in thinking it was a joke, but he’s also not alone in respecting the value the two American owners have brought to the club. Having owners who care is one of the most important things in football, and the events at Reading last weekend have shown the importance of that.

The former Wrexham manager always had faith the club could eventually make it to the Championship, and judging by the trajectory right now; it won’t be long before we see that prediction come through.

 

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