This months book review from John Morris is ‘From Hollywood to Wrexham‘ by Peter Read. This is an insightful and enthralling journey through how two A-list celebrities bought and improved our beloved football club.
The notion of success for many in sport is the desire to judge performance in terms of “making progress”.
From Hollywood To Wrexham
However, success in terms of “hopefulness” or “moving forward” must, eventually, be re-defined in terms of winning. The key to winning is being aware of the skills, systems and structures to put in place to break through the “glass ceiling” between “also-rans” and winners.
Peter Read’s From Hollywood to Wrexham takes readers on an insightful, enjoyable and enthralling journey. It’s about how two A-list celebrities transformed the fortunes of Wrexham football club. Their resolve and leadership style has improved the profile and changed perceptions of the city of Wrexham. They have placed the football club, the playing staff, the City of Wrexham and the Welsh language and culture onto a global stage.
Peter’s skills as a writer provide the reader with an opportunity to gain insight into how Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have created a management structure that has moved “hopefulness” to “Pencampwyr” (Champions).
He uses his experiences as a passionate supporter with additional comments from a range of fellow supporters and colleagues. His lucid, “conversational” writing style” will regale readers as he recalls “magic memories” of Wrexham football club.
Highlights include becoming Third Division champions in 1977-78, playing in the Second Division, and the FA Cup victory in 1982. Also the glorious television repeats of the free kick by Mickey Thomas and the winning goal by Steve Watkins.
Magnificent successes that fervent Wrexham supporters celebrated and remembered with gusto.
Those glory days are in direct contrast to how they hit rock-bottom following administration in 2004, relegation into non-league football in 2008 and the winding-up order in 2011.
Peter recalls the events that led to the period of doom while acknowledging the loyal supporters that rallied to save the club.
However, the uphill journey to regain football league status was more hazardous than many supporters, managers and players anticipated.
How battle-beaten supporters were when in the 2019-20 season. Wrexham finished one point above the relegation zone with the real threat of further relegation into the Vancouver North League.
Peter pulls no punches as he discusses key issues, including management, which affected the team’s performance.
The initial apprehension regarding the purchase of the club by the “Hollywood stars” in February 2021 was soon dispelled. Rob and Ryan have re-energised the football club, and not merely with their financial backing.
Peter highlights that they quickly engaged with supporters and won over the wider population by showing warmth, generosity, and compassion.
Unfortunately, Peter has been disingenuous by failing to note the efforts by Rob and Ryan to promote the Welsh language. He fails to highlight how their club ownership model included learning the Welsh language and engaging with their Welsh-speaking fans.
Peter does not refer to the impact the Welsh language by the club owners has had with supporters in Wrexham and globally.
He omits to mention the extended use of the Welsh language by the club. It was prominent with the “Pencampwyr/Champions” sign on the front of the team bus as it went through the city celebrating the team’s success.
Peter could have written how Rob McElhenney has increased his Welsh language skills and vocabulary. Which was highlighted in the Welcome to Wrexham video. Or the input of Maxine Hughes, an American-based Welsh-speaking journalist, in a hilarious parody video, which received extensive media attention.
The evidence clearly shows how their use of Welsh has increased the number of adults learning the language in Wrexham, neighboring areas, America, Canada, and Australia.
Reynolds has even purchased five series of Welsh language programmes from S4C to show on his television channel in America.
With the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (National Eisteddfod) coming to Wrexham in August 2025. Wrexham supporters consider the two stars to be nominated for the Bardic Circle (Cylch yr Orsedd) for supporting the Welsh language.
Ryan and Rob’s approach has been enhanced by appointing an experienced management team for coaching and sports science alongside an administrative unit for marketing.
The owners’ range of contacts in the media and entrepreneurial skills were evident with the Welcome to Wrexham documentary. The global publicity generated a visit by King Charles and his entourage.
Boosting the Team
Extensive BBC and S4C media attention on the team’s success over Notts County, the penalty save by Ben Foster, regaining football league status, and playing sides of the status of Chelsea and Manchester United in America. Have all helped to boost the level of the team and the city as a location for business and employment.
Unfortunately, Peter fails to note how the publicity given to the success of the “business strategy” developed by Ryan and Rob at Wrexham has been a focus of “good practice” for several clubs in all divisions.
For example, the success of the Wrexham management model has encouraged other American stars to try to emulate them by investing their disposable wealth in clubs.
These investors, including Tom Brody (Birmingham City), JJ Watts (Burnley), and Michael Phelps (Leeds), have noted the success of the documentary. Which has created a significant new fan base for Wrexham in America.
The author’s experiences and knowledge of the transformation of Wrexham AFC make for enjoyable and humorous reading. He uses a wide range of anecdotal interactions.
However, the vivid text could have benefitted from the inclusion of photographs showing the key aspects of the team. Including players from the time in Division Two, FA Cup successes, the exploits of the Hollywood owners at the Turf, their interactions with the team and staff, and the celebratory bus tour through Wrexham.
Peter Read charts the meteoric re-emergence of Wrexham as a Football League club following the purchase of the club by the “Two Stars from Hollywood”. Despite a slightly blinkered overall vision, it is worth reading to appreciate the difference that Rob and Ryan have made to Wrexham AFC and the City.
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