The success of Wrexham AFC in regaining Football League status in April 2023 after languishing in the “shadowlands” of nonleague football has resulted in immense focus on the City by the media.
A New Vision
In the enthralling’, extensively researched and revealing Tinseltown. Ian Herbert analyses how the entrepreneurial and marketing skills of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, have transformed Y Cae Ras. It has generated a new vision of life in Wrexham outside the football team.
Herbert’s skills as an investigative journalist is clearly evident throughout the text. He skilfully engages the reader with human stories, humour and social insights. The preface illuminates his personality clearly, not merely as a boy from “The Marches” but more significantly as a regular at Y Cae Ras as a Wrexham supporter.
He grips the attention of the reader as he reflects on his earliest programme ( 26/11/1983) from a home game against Northampton Town and also travelling to away games at clubs like Halifax, Burnley and Rochdale.
He rekindles fond memories of catching the train from Chirk to Wrexham and walking into town to get some chips before the glory day games. The author reflects with a heavy heart on the debacle caused in 2002 by the asset-stripping antics of financiers such as Guterman and Hamilton. Followed by the land and property development schemes of Roberts and Moss.
Ian’s astute research and observations give credit to many individuals and the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust for putting the club in a safe place when they bought it in 2011 after heroically meeting the demands of the Conference League.
The transformation started in 2020 with Rob McElhenney, who was looking for a football club he could tell a story about. Ian’s lucid style and extensive research reveal the efforts of Rob Parry, Humphrey Ker, Steve Horowitz, Shaun Harvey and others.
Having been turned over in the past, some supporters were apprehensive. Ian doesn’t flinch from giving it to the reader in factual style as he reviews the early stages of the new co-chairmen. Rob McElhenney spoke with emotion, sentiment and pride of his affinity to “this one-time coal town in North Wales”. His partner was the better-known Ryan Reynolds, a film star, writer, and producer, but also an outstanding entrepreneur.
Ian Herbert highlights their personalities as engaging, caring, and deeply aware of the historical, cultural and bilingual background of the extended Wrexham community. Top-quality staff and advisers such as Phil Parkinson, Les Reed and others brought the key skills that Wrexham was missing.
They invested in players such as Paul Mullin, with his appetite for goals, energy and leadership in the dressing room. More signings followed and there was a “real buzz” around the town. The “Diolch” chapter gives insight into Maxine Hughes’ humorous translation into Welsh of Rob and Ryan’s speeches. This put the Welsh language at Cae Ras on a positive trajectory. As Rob McElhenny stated, “This is a far bigger movement; it’s not just about football”.
This is a truly outstanding book that looks at the inspirational and motivational management of staff and supporters by two A-List Celebrities. It has transformed the fortunes of Wrexham Football Club and put the City on the map.
Ian raises readers’ awareness of sociological and historical issues throughout the book. These are key aspects of the city alongside the contribution and involvement of individuals. All this is in addition to the use of Welsh language poems (alongside their English translation) by Bryan Martin Davies.
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