LONDON – The Hollywood owners of Wrexham are still learning the vernacular of British soccer.
They don’t need guidance, though, to set the scene for this weekend’s FA Cup match against second-division Sheffield United.
Rob McElhenney, who co-owns the fifth-tier club with fellow actor Ryan Reynolds, joked that he’s visited Sheffield and likes the people but “they of course are the enemy now and their tyrannical reign through the Championship must be stopped a la Goliath.”
Wrexham is lowest-ranked team left in the world’s oldest soccer knockout competition, 71 places below its opponent in English soccer’s pyramid.
The teams play on Sunday at Wrexham's sold-out Racecourse Ground in northeast Wales, about 28 miles south of Liverpool.
McElhenney says he’s still getting used to British soccer sayings like “squeaky-bum time” — made famous by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson when describing the tense late moments of a game. He said that one is his “ absolute favorite ” so far.
The celebrity owners, who completed a $2.5 million takeover of the team in November 2020, might pick up some more colloquial phrases if Wrexham can pull off another big upset in the FA Cup.
Wrexham beat second-tier Coventry City 4-3 to reach the fourth round of the competition for the first time since 2000. Reynolds, a Canadian best known for starring in the “Deadpool” movies, said the win over Coventry left him “ totally speechless ” after the team built a 4-1 lead and held on at the end.
“We have got a huge tradition in the FA Cup,” said Chris Jones, a member of the Wrexham Supporters Trust. “It's a great atmosphere at the grounds. The crowd is always very vociferous. When we do play those big games, there's a real advantage.”
Wrexham achieved one of the FA Cup’s greatest upsets by beating then-English champion Arsenal in the third round in 1992. Wrexham also reached the quarterfinals in the 1996-97 season, when it was in the third tier.
The club leads the National League standings and is on course for promotion to League Two — English soccer's fourth tier.
“It's a complete turnaround,” said Jones, who credits Reynolds and McElhenney. “They're really doing everything that they promised to do. They're very keen to listen to the fans."
NOT ALL SUNNY
Wrexham, the world’s third-oldest professional club, has torn down a portion of its stands and will replace it with new and expanded seating capacity.
But the club's hopes — through the multi-stakeholder Wrexham Gateway project — for UK government support on the construction of a new Kop stand were dashed last week when a proposed grant was rejected.
Humphrey Ker, a British actor who is Wrexham's executive director, said the news “was received with bitter disappointment” but he said the club has a “Plan B.”
“The Kop will rise again, it will just have to do so via a different method to the one for which we had so long planned. More to come on that,” he said in a statement on the club's website.
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