Ryan Reynolds puts Welsh town on sports map and strengthens tourist profile

The Canadian actor became part owner of the Wrexham AFC soccer club.

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When Canadian actor and Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds became part-owner of Wrexham AFC football club, many sports experts wondered: why Wrexham? The rest of us, with apologies to the Welsh expats, dug the atlas and wondered: where the hell is Wrexham?

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

As for the destination Wrexham, it is a merchant town in north-east Wales which is trying, like so many others before it, to remake itself in a post-industrial landscape where tourism, green energy, biosciences and high-tech startups are the new gods of economic planning. And while it may never stumble like other UK destinations do, Wrexham has taken a huge step forward in notoriety thanks to Reynolds and his owner partner, the better-known actor and producer Rob McElhenney. for It’s Always Sunny in Crême Philadelphia.

Located in the historic county of Denbighshire, the town and borough of Wrexham lies just five miles west of the English border and was at the forefront of the industrial revolution as a hub for the coal mining, machinery manufacturing and metallurgy.

At the end of the 18th century, it housed the Bersham Ironworks, where John (Iron Mad) Wilkinson built cylinders for the world’s first steam engines and supplied cannons to the British Army during the American Revolution.

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

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To better appreciate Wrexham’s industrial heritage – and this stunning Welsh landscape – visitors can head five miles south of the town to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal, which is part of a heritage site. UNESCO world 17 km long and the “jewel” of the city in civil engineering. Lovers of vertigo can cross the Pontcysyllte bridge on foot. But for a more leisurely ride, hop aboard a canal boat and truly savor the view. Nearby is the 700-year-old Chirk Castle, a symbolic heap built during the reign of Edward I to send a “dark statement of English intent” to the disputed lands. Lucky for us, Brooder Edward and his successors have left behind the lavish attributes of high society and nearly 500 acres (200 hectares) of parkland with wild ponies, sheep and towering trees.

The land also contains a beautifully preserved section of the Offa Dyke, a dirt bank stretching some 130 km and roughly following the border between England and Wales. Inspired by Offa, an Anglo-Saxon king, it was built between AD 757 and 796 to assert his authority and “quell the unruly Welsh”.

Accessible on foot from the town center (four km to the south) is the ‘nation’s favorite historic house’, Erdigg, a huge 18th century mansion set in a 485 hectare ornate garden operated by the National Trust. The estate stretches from the earliest origins of Wrexham to its industrial heyday and is the site of a Norman castle, of which only the earthworks remain.

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Back in town, Americans and academics alike will be in awe of the 15th-century Gothic St. Giles Parish Church – which contains the tomb of Elihu Yale, founder of the eponymous University of Connecticut – and is the largest medieval church from Wales. Its bell tower, which dominates the skyline, is available for climbs booked in advance.

Further glimpses of Wrexham’s past can be found along the Clywedog Trail, which follows the river of the same name from the Minera lead mines, where the Romans are said to have started digging for durable metal, to a old limestone quarry which is now a nature reserve.

To be careful with Wrexham, however, we have to keep our eyes on the ball. Sports enthusiast or not, it is clear that football (or football for the rest of the world) is at the heart of 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 matches at the racecourse, previously used for horse racing and cricket. In 1957, it hosted a record attendance of 34,445 to see the Red Dragons take on mighty Manchester United in the FA Cup competition.

Today the club play in the National League, the fifth and lowest level in the English football pyramid, drawing an average crowd of 5,000 as fans fantasize about returning to the big-budget Premier League and face giants like Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

With Reynolds and McElhenney now in charge, a ‘feel-good factor’ has returned to the club, which became fan-owned in 2011 after it nearly went bankrupt, and this vague Premiership dream is no longer dismissed out of hand. .

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The Hollywood duo, who took full ownership of the team in February, have already impressed home fans with their commitment and promise to inject around £ 2million ($ 3.4million) into the club’s infrastructure . A documentary on its history and reconstruction is also in preparation.

Even for those who consider football boring, nothing beats the atmosphere of a British football match on a busy Saturday where the streets are teeming with sometimes overly exuberant fans singing and chanting before rushing en masse to the stadium.

Then again, you can always head to the Turf Pub on the corner of Racecourse Ground and contemplate the vagaries of the offside rule over a pint of foam. This is exactly what the new owners did on a recent impromptu visit, according to the Daily Mail.

But after watching Wrexham’s live opener, a heart-wrenching 3-2 away loss, Reynolds might need something stiffer than a mug of beer. He told the Daily Post that he almost had a “nervous breakdown” looking sideways.

Welcome to the “beautiful game,” Ryan. Whether it’s a casual spectator or a dedicated owner, whether it’s the Wrexham AFC or the Wawa Juniors, it will have you falling for it every time.

– André Ramshaw

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