Non-league Wrexham are one win away from winning promotion to the Football League – and there will be millions more than the 10,000 in attendance in North Wales this weekend roaring them on.
Wrexham, backed by Hollywood pair Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, have proven an enormous hit with fans in the United States, so much so that for many, the fandom has now become a daily way of life.
Some are studying up on British cuisine – baked beans have proven a hit – in a bid to feel closer to locals, while others are having debriefs at the start of weekly conference calls at work to discuss all things Wrexham. For some, a pilgrimage to Wrexham has proven to be their family holiday this year.
Last year’s award-winning Welcome to Wrexham documentary, which aired on Disney+ and Hulu, put the club in front of millions in the States and the impact has been transformative.
Wrexham are on the cusp of ending a 15-year wait to win promotion from non-league, are preparing for a US tour this summer, where they will face Manchester United, and also have season two of Welcome to Wrexham to follow later in the year as they look to capture the hearts and minds of even more in America.
Wrexham fever is sweeping across United States as they edge to promotion (Pic: Las Vegas)
The impact of Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds (right) has been transformative
Wrexham are one win away from winning promotion to the Football League after 15 years
The popularity of Wrexham means that they are regularly trending on Twitter in the States
Sat in San Diego last month to announce the blockbuster friendly against Manchester United, McElhenney is convinced Wrexham can become America’s team in the coming years.
‘We said from day one we want to grow the exposure of the club and make it a global enterprise,’ McElhenney said.
‘We have been really fortunate that Americans seem to have taken to the documentary and they fell in love with the town.’
The team trends most matchdays on social media in the US and even more so in recent weeks as promotion closes in – even with competition from basketball, baseball and hockey.
With the growing fandom sweeping the States, Mail Sport spoke to a handful of fans who are officially hooked on all things Wrexham.
JAMAL COLBY FAYYAD, TEXAS
Jamal Colby Fayyad, known online as The Wrexham Texan, has been transfixed by the story of Wrexham and the plight of the area.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Rio Grande Valley, the border area between the US and Mexico, first got wind of Wrexham when Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover was approved in 2021. Immediately he sought more information.
‘Lower division football, specifically in Europe, fascinates me so I wanted to see what Reynolds and McElhenney would do with this club,’ he told Mail Sport.
‘I actually had no idea the documentary was in the works and that they had these grand plans for Wrexham, truth be told. I just thought it was an investment for some Hollywood folks – like LeBron James with Liverpool, for example.
‘When the documentary came out, I was officially hooked.’
Despite his old boss originating from Chester – Wrexham’s nearest rival – he has committed his allegiances to the Welsh side and isn’t looking back. He made one trip over this season – navigating biting cold and heavy snowfall to see them beat Southend United 1-0. He is already planning his return.
‘This team is going to reach special heights and we honestly have just scratched the surface,’ he said.
Texas-based fan Jamal Colby Fayyad has stocked up on merchandise since becoming a fan
He was able to get hold of kits from 2021-22 and 2022-23 – despite the scarcity of them given the overwhelming demand post-documentary in particular – and has since gone on to deck out his home with t-shirts, scarfs, magnets, snapbacks and drinks coasters.
Americans’ love of reality TV is one factor as to why he believes Wrexham has such widespread appeal Stateside.
‘Wrexham has it ALL, for any type of consumer,’ he explains. ‘Americans love reality TV and Wrexham is reality TV meets sport.
‘Unlike most of your reality TV shows, you can go to Wrexham and meet Wayne (Wayne Jones – pub landlord) at the Turf, you can go to the Racecourse and see Mark Griffiths (matchday commentator) before the match, it’s reality TV taken to the next level.’
Colby Fayyad followed Liverpool as his British-based team for the best part of a decade and never had any worries of promotion or relegation given they are one of the most successful teams ever in English football.
With Wrexham, the emotional pull has proven too strong to shake. Now he makes sure he is always listening to matches live or watching them at home. He is hoping to have a watch-party for Saturday’s potential promotion-decider against Boreham Wood.
‘It’s one thing to root for Goliath, its another to root for David,’ he adds.
He also made a trip to Wrexham and had to dig through snow to see them beat Southend 1-0
‘The story of Wrexham and the locals keeping it afloat, everything happening feels so deserved for that town and they’re just so easy to cheer for and you want to see them succeed. Lastly, who am I kidding, you have Ryan Reynolds as your owner! That is a head turner and will bring eyes to the club.
‘I want to see Wrexham every step of the way in their journey to promotion, there will be highs and lows, but I’m excited to experience league football literally from the bottom.
‘I believe this club can be what the Chicago Bulls were to the rest of the world in the 90’s. Wrexham can honestly be a household name.’
ADAM AND AMY WOMACK, FLORIDA
When the call came for a stranded Wrexham fan in Orlando to find a place to watch the Dragons’ match against Barnet this month, one dedicated family did not hesitate.
The Womacks, based in Florida, were eager to host Will Sudworth, a businessman and season ticket holder from Wrexham, for breakfast as they all watched the match, which finished 0-0, together in their shirts.
The family, who are obsessed with all things Wrexham, were gifted a mug and a scarf to add to their growing merchandise collection.
‘I’d seen news reports that Rob and Ryan had bought a team and were doing a documentary but didn’t give it that much thought at first,’ Adam explains.
‘I started watching the documentary after about half the episodes had been released and just got hooked by the story of the team and the struggles that the community had gone through to save the team.’
He continued: ‘Americans love an underdog story. Most sports fans have a team that they have rooted for their whole life (professional or in college) that has fallen on hard times at one point or another. But the teams here have the luxury of knowing that they will still come back and play the next season.
The Womack family in Orlando hosted Wrexham season ticket holder Will Sudworth (third from left) earlier this month to watch the Barnet match, which started at 7.45am in Florida
‘What makes Wrexham’s story so compelling is the fact that the team was on the brink of ceasing to exist were it not for the dedication and bravery of a whole town to step up and fight for their club. That’s just something that is foreign to us over here.’
From speaking to a host of fans in the States during this run-in, the concept of promotion and relegation, something both Reynolds and McElhenney have repeatedly said played a role in peaking their own interest, is of huge intrigue.
The family have now made listening to Wrexham podcasters, watching Wrexham YouTubers and listening to play-by-play commentary a part of their weekend routine.
‘It’s THE underdog of underdog stories!’
One of the biggest blockades on growing fandom in the US was the inability for fans to live stream matches. After the National League launched a streaming platform, millions more can grow attached to the team.
‘Once streaming became available I purchased the second half of the season and have watched every game live with my wife and one of my boys,’ he adds.
Driving the push for streaming is one of Reynolds and McElhenney’s biggest wins in the past two years and it has led to the Womacks receiving dozens of messages to help build up a Florida Supporters’ Club.
DAYSHA LOWERY, ALABAMA
Watching matches, listening to podcasts and buying merchandise is one thing but Alabama mother Daysha Lowery, 37, is eager to throw herself into British culture, too.
Alabama-based fan Daysha Lowery has become ‘hooked’ and is now busy trying British cuisine such
Along with her friends and family, she has been trying out a Full English breakfast and some of the UK’s favourite chocolate bars, while also getting rave reviews from her children on baked beans.
And for Lowery, it all started with a trailer for the Welcome to Wrexham documentary.
‘I was not aware at the time that Ryan and Rob had bought a football club,’ she explains. ‘That alone was intriguing.
‘After reading the description and viewing the trailer it really seemed like something that I would enjoy. So I showed my husband so that we could watch it together. I laughed and cried. Which in all fairness is good preparation for following the team throughout the season. A lot of emotions! I’ve learned that over the last seven or eight months. I was hooked on the show at that point.’
She shared online that her children had ‘no complaints’ after trying beans and HP brown sauce
Lowery has become a popular figure on social media with her enthusiasm of the area and the team matching many who have followed all of their life.
‘When I tell you that Wrexham fans are the best… I mean it. I have never had a team that I have followed with a fanbase that was more like a community. I don’t just mean the ones that have followed pre-show either. It has truly grown into a worldwide community.
‘I am hooked! I have been accepted into the community of fans. And who knew that football could be so exciting? Prior to following Wrexham I did not understand how a game with a score of 1-0 could possibly be an emotional rollercoaster. I figured it out very quick though!’
She and her family are yet to make the voyage over to Wrexham but are still eating their way through a local English pub in Alabama as they follow from afar with promotion closing in.
JOHN KOPECKY, COLORADO
Where it is food for one new fan, a lucky pair of red pants are doing the trick for John Kopecky, a 43-year-old based in Peyton, Colorado.
Kopecky’s reversal when it comes to football is remarkable given it is a sport he previously thought was ‘lame’ and ‘soft’ in comparison to, for example, American football.
‘I never really liked football,’ he told Mail Sport. ‘Like many Americans I kind of laughed it off as a ‘soft’ sport.
‘I’ve learned that anything you don’t understand can be seen as boring. Now that I’ve learned about promotion and relegation etc, and how it effects the overall status of the club I’ve found myself streaming games of Wrexham’s opponents and cheering at my screen when Oldham managed to get a draw against Notts County – two teams I had never heard of a year ago!’
It took binge watching six episodes of the documentary to reel in Kopecky and now Wrexham is a major talking point not just at home, but also at work.
‘I’m in love with everything Wrexham. In fact the CEO of my company loved the documentary and I’m in charge of giving the weekly Wrexham update at our Wednesday morning company-wide zoom meetings. I’m hooked for life!’
Colorado-based John Kopecky (right) and his friend Chris (left) met Wayne Jones from the Turf
Kopecky used to hate football but is now obsessed and made a woodwork badge for the Turf prior to making the trip over for the Easter Monday spectacular against Notts County
Kopecky simply couldn’t wait too long to make the trip to North Wales with his friend Chris and the pair came over – along with his lucky red pants – over the Easter weekend to see them play at Halifax and at home to Notts County.
He was recognised by locals from his fandom online and posed for photos along Mold Road while he handed out Wales/Colorado badges.
‘I’ve been to hundreds of live sporting events in my life and I have to say the game against Notts County in Wrexham was by far my favorite live sporting event I’ve ever been to in person. I’ve been to NBA playoffs, NHL Stanley Cup Finals, MLB playoffs, none got me going as much as that game.’
His mission now is to get his wife and daughter to make the trip with him so they too can get the buzz. Kopecky, a part time woodworker, has also gifted a wooden badge cut-out to the Turf and is eager to give back.
‘Rob and Ryan gave us a story and a reason to care, and sometimes that’s all the spark you need to ignite a fire,’ he adds.
‘The sky is the limit.’
PAMELA RW KANDT, WYOMING
For 63-year-old Pamela Kandt, her love of hit TV comedy Ted Lasso actually had her doubting whether to watch ‘Welcome to Wrexham’.
‘I had no desire or intent to watch it when it was first promoted, it did not spark my interest,’ she said.
Growing up she would listen to LA Dodgers and LA Lakers games on radio but football was an afterthought.
As a Long Covid sufferer who is mostly housebound, finding things to put her passion into has been vital – and Wrexham arrived at a time where ‘many of us were suffering’.
She watches a lot of TV and her fandom began when seeing Reynolds and McElhenney interviewed by Stephen Colbert.
‘I was utterly entranced by their chemistry,’ she said, admitting that prior to that interview she thought they were two pretty-boy Hollywood celebrities.
‘So, I watched the series… and my life changed.’
Wrexham-born former player Tony Merola (front) is spreading the word to fans nearby in Texas
Kandt lives in northwest Wyoming, more than 4,400 miles away from Wrexham, but her paternal Welsh roots have always peaked her interest.
‘I was not prepared for my emotional connection to the community the docuseries created,’ she adds.
‘Since season one, I’ve made dozens of Wrexham AFC-loving friends in Wales and abroad via Twitter, listened to every match and podcast, and started planning a Wales coastal driving tour.
‘So many good people are now part of my daily life, thanks to Wrexham. For me, Wrexham is the love story we never knew we needed. In a time of such polarization and hate, Wrexham has connected a global community of people who cherish kindness, generosity, decency, humor, hard work, fidelity and faith.
‘Wrexham exemplifies what so many of us crave in a world that too often does not display those same values.’
DANIEL LLNDAHL, MAINE
‘I have never been a follower of anything like I follow – love – Wrexham. I never understood the angst of balancing wanting the team to get past the two-a-week matches and heal up, rest and set forth strong, and pacing the floor waiting for the next match. Now I can’t understand not understanding that.’
Daniel LIndahl, a 54-year-old from Auburn, Maine, who works for a college in IT, is another to be drawn in by the drama of Wrexham.
His only prior experience of football came playing it for a month as a child, only for his lift to training to let him down.
For LIndahl had the documentary been more sports-heavy, he may well have tuned out.
‘If it had just been about sports, I probably would have moved on after a few episodes. But it wasn’t just about sports. It was about a town and a tradition and a history and it was about people like Wayne Jones and Spencer Harris and Kerry Evans and Jordan Davies and Shaun Winter and The Declan Swans and Aaron Hayden and I could go on and on. That’s what drew me in.’
Now on his travels he is frantically tracking player team news and building up his knowledge base through radio shows and podcasts, which continue to spring up.
He is holding off on merchandise for now, eager not to bow to scalpers re-selling online, but thinks local travel companies should brace themselves for Wrexham tour requests.
‘I’d bet they’d get a ton of interest!’
One teacher in the US has taken any moment he can to broadcast matches in the classroom
MINDY AND PAUL McCORD, FLORIDA
The goal for almost all of these new fans is to eventually end up in Wrexham, soaking up the buzz down Crispin Lane and grabbing a drink or two in The Turf.
For Floridians Mindy and Paul McCord, both 51, and their son LJ, who is 9, they were determined to make it happen as soon as they realised they were ‘diehard’ fans.
They were welcomed into The Turf, downtown Wrexham and received numerous offers to be shown where to go during their Welsh adventure.
‘The plight of the people in Wrexham and the club became our own!’ Paul explains.
‘Americans identify with the struggle and the desire to rise again! The Welsh played a major part in making America a free country and helping to liberate the US from the English.’
He adds: ‘In the US more than a million have watched the show. I would estimate that over the last six months more than 150,000 American fans have been picked up.
‘With the club coming to the US to play, they will no doubt gain more supporters. I don’t think there’s another team from oversees that has a more active or passionate fan base in the US than Wrexham, and it’s only growing!’
It starts with promotion and the theme of many of these conversations is that the sky really is the limit for Wrexham in the US.
Paul (left) and Mindy McCord travelled to Wrexham with their son LJ having become totally transfixed by the Welcome to Wrexham documentary – and they tip more US fans to follow