Ryan Reynolds puts Welsh city on sporting map, boosts tourism profile

Canadian actor becomes co-owner of Wrexham AFC soccer club.

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When Canadian actor and Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds became the co-owner of the Wrexham AFC soccer club, a lot of sports pundits wondered: Why Wrexham? The rest of us, apologizing to the Welsh immigrants, dug up the atlas and wondered: Where is Wrexham?

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It is best to leave the answer to the first question on the pages of the game. But in short: A proud club in dire financial straits can attract the interest of deep-pocketed buyers with the right mix of promotional flair and chutzpah.

As for the Wrexham destination, it is a market town in northeastern Wales that, like many before it, is trying to remake itself in a post-industrial landscape, where tourism, green energy, biosciences and high-tech startups There is a new god of economic planning. And while it may never quite come off the tongue the way other UK destinations do, Reynolds and his proprietorship partner, actor and producer Rob McElhenney, best known for It’s Always Sunny, for Wrexham has taken a huge leap up the name recognition ladder. Philadelphia.

Located in the historic county of Denbighshire, the town and borough of Wrexham is only eight kilometers west of the English border and was at the fore of the Industrial Revolution as a center for coal mining, machinery making and metalworking.

In the late 18th century it was home to the Bursham Ironworks, where John (Iron Maid) Wilkinson made cylinders for the world’s first steam engine, and supplied cannons to the British Army during the American Revolution.

“It used to be a big brewery town, a big steel town, a big coal town,” says Humphrey Kerr, executive director of Wrexham AFC. Speaking to the wrexham.com news site, the English writer and actor admits the city has “seen better days”, but points to its “astonishing” surroundings. “Some real Game of Thrones s-, if you will.”

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To best appreciate Wrexham’s industrial heritage – and all that stunning Welsh scenery – visitors can walk eight kilometers south of the city to the Pontcysilte Aqueduct and Canal, a 17-km-long UNESCO World Heritage Site and center of the city’s civil engineering. Jewelry” part. Those with high heads can cross the Pontcissilte bridge on foot. But for a more leisurely ride, hop on a canal boat and really enjoy the scenery. Nearby is the 700-year-old Chirk Castle, a symbolic mound built during the reign of Edward I to send “contemplation of the English intention” to the disputed land. Luckily for us, Broody Edward and his heirs left behind nearly 500 acres (200 ha) of estate parkland with the lavish stuff of high society and wild ponies, sheep and tall trees.

The grounds also have a beautifully preserved section of the Offa Dyke, an earthen bank that stretches for about 130 km and roughly follows the boundary that separates England and Wales. Inspired by Offa, an Anglo-Saxon king, it was constructed in the period from 757 to 796 AD to assert his authority and “suppress the unruly Welsh”.

Walkable from the town center (four km south) is Erdig, a sprawling 18th-century manor set in an ornate 485-hectare garden run by the National Trust. The property traces the early origins of Wrexham to its industrial heyday and is the site of a Norman castle, of which only earthworks remain.

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Back in town, Americans and academics will be influenced by the 15th-century Gothic St. Giles Parish Church—which houses the tomb of Elihu Yale, the university founder of the same name in Connecticut—and the largest medieval church in Wales. Its bell tower, which dominates the skyline, is available for pre-booked ascents.

Other glimpses of Wrexham’s past can be found along the Clivedog Trail, which follows the river of the same name from the Minera Lead Mines, where it is said that the Romans began digging for the first durable metal, an old limestone for the mine which is now a nature reserve.

To properly wax about Wrexham, though, we must keep our eyes on the ball. Sports fan or not, there’s no denying soccer (or football in the rest of the world) is central to the city’s identity.

The oldest club in Wales, and the third oldest professional football team in the world, Wrexham AFC was founded in 1864 and plays its games at the Racecourse Ground, formerly used for horse racing and cricket. In 1957, it hosted a record attendance of 34,445 to see the Red Dragons take on the mighty Manchester United in an FA Cup competition.

Today the club plays in the National League, the fifth and lowest tier in England’s football pyramid, attracting an average crowd of 5,000 as fans imagine a return to the big-money Premier League and the likes of giants such as Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea. struggle with.

With Reynolds and McElhenney now in charge, a “feel-good factor” is back in the club, which became pro-owned after nearly closing in 2011, and that vague Premiership dream is no longer out of hand. Is.

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The Hollywood duo, who took full ownership of the team in February, have already impressed with their commitment to local supporters and are pledging to pump nearly £2 million ($3.4 million) into the club’s infrastructure. A documentary on its history and reconstruction is also in the works.

Even for those who dismiss soccer as boring, nothing beats the atmosphere of a British soccer match on a bustling Saturday when the streets are sometimes filled with enthusiastic supporters. Singing and chanting is done before entering the stadium.

Then again, you can always walk into the Turf Pub around the corner from the racecourse ground and contemplate the vagaries of the offside rule over a frothy pint. According to the Daily Mail, this is what the new owners did during an impromptu visit recently.

But after watching Wrexham’s first live game, losing 3-2, Reynolds may be in need of something tougher than a mug. He told the Daily Post newspaper that he had almost had a “nervous breakdown” upon seeing him from the side.

Welcome to the “Beautiful Game,” Ryan. Be it casual spectators or invested owners, be it Wrexham AFC or Wawa Juniors, this one will rip your nerves every time.

— Andre Ramshaw

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