‘Worth it’: Blake Lively gets ESPN+ to watch Ryan Reynolds’ Wrexham roller coaster
It’s been a riotous season for Wrexham — the Welsh club co-owned by Hollywood’s Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — with the non-league side mirroring the glitz and glamour of their boardroom with some truly box-office performances that will make season two of “Welcome To Wrexham” compelling viewing.
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With the stars of “Deadpool” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” steering the ship, the Red Dragons are not only top of the fifth-tier National League but are also making impressive headway in the FA Cup after holding their own against Championship opposition in both the third and fourth rounds.
After seeing off Coventry City in a seven-goal thriller in the last round, Wrexham again laid on a thoroughly entertaining display against Sheffield United at the Racecourse Ground on Sunday, with Reynolds once again in the crowd roaring his team along.
The two teams slugged out a dramatic 3-3 draw that began with an opening goal for the Blades after just 64 seconds and culminated with Wrexham going 3-2 up in the 87th minute only to concede a equaliser deep into stoppage time (stream a replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).
Things got off to a fittingly chaotic start when Wrexham made a hash of their prematch tweet when the lack of a crucial suffix effectively informed fans they were facing Sheffield FC, the non-league side recognised by FIFA as the world’s oldest existing football club, rather than their actual opponents, Sheffield United.
🚨Calling all Sheffield FC fans…DO NOT travel to Wrexham this evening, as they are playing @SheffieldUnited and not us! #TheWorldsFirst https://t.co/t4oyhfnfR3
— Sheffield Football Club (@sheffieldfc) January 29, 2023
Before the game, Wrexham striker Paul Mullin (the top scorer in the FA Cup so far this season) unveiled a pair of custom boots that he would be wearing for the occasion which featured a tribute to his son Albi, who was diagnosed with autism the previous week.
Last week my little boy was diagnosed with autism luckily I have great people around me to help. Albi being Autistic doesn’t mean nothing he’s a happy and healthy boy no different to anyone else! Just a few hurdles in his way that am sure he will clear! ❤️ #autismawareness pic.twitter.com/DoLpMQRuaK
— Paul Mullin (@PMullin7) January 27, 2023
On the day of the game, Mullin walked on to the pitch wearing a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that are used by some people with autism to help deal with the potentially overwhelming matchday atmosphere.
Super Paul Mullin indeed ❤️
🔴⚪️ #WxmAFC pic.twitter.com/HXFXFeAmRB
— Wrexham AFC (@Wrexham_AFC) January 29, 2023
Reynolds was also caught on camera revealing his secret plan to combat the attacking threat of Wrexham’s opponents, who are on course for promotion back to the Premier League for next season: four goalkeepers.
“I’ve negotiated us having four goalies this game!” – @VancityReynolds 😂
Is this allowed, @EmiratesFACup? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/umVOjx0fSy
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) January 29, 2023
The Canadian actor also delighted the crowd by making a point of calling his friend and business partner, McElhenney, for some mutual moral support ahead of one of the biggest matches of their tenure.
Ryan Reynolds called up fellow Wrexham co-owner Rob McElhenney during their FA Cup match against Sheffield United 😂 pic.twitter.com/9M8oMTZHsg
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 29, 2023
McElhenney was unable to make the trip to Wales as he was at home in Philadelphia watching his beloved Eagles secure a place in the Super Bowl with victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Almost 10,000 fans were in attendance at the Racecourse, though the best view in the house was arguably enjoyed by the construction worker who looked on from the building site behind one of the goals, where work to redevelop the old Kop Stand continues.
Millions also watched on from their homes around the world, including Reynold’s partner Blake Lively, who said on Instagram that her ESPN+ subscription was already delivering great value for money.
Be like @blakelively and watch Wrexham on ESPN+ 😅 pic.twitter.com/RoIGxS31YY
— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) January 29, 2023
Lively was not disappointed either as Reynolds was made to endure the highs and lows of English knockout competition in real time while watching his side take the lead through Mullin with minutes remaining only to see their dreams dashed with seconds left to play.
Every football fan knows this feeling 😭 pic.twitter.com/8OWWd1h4yH
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 29, 2023
In putting Wrexham ahead in the 86th minute, top scorer Mullin netted his seventh FA Cup goal of the season (and his 27th goal in all competitions) which he celebrated by making an “A” gesture while dedicating the strike to his young son.
Unfortunately for Reynolds and his team, a 95th-minute buzzer beater from Sheffield United defender Joe Egan broke Wrexham hearts and denied them the prestige of back-to-back FA Cup wins over teams three divisions above them.
No matter what happens, what @VancityReynolds and @RMcElhenney have done for @Wrexham_AFC is incredible ♥️#EmiratesFACup pic.twitter.com/t79tmP54VL
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 29, 2023
Not that the club’s 46-year-old co-owner was too dejected, as he still made time to meet some of the club’s young fans after the final whistle. While the result may not have quite followed the script, the experience certainly seemed to resonate with Reynolds claiming the game to have been among the most exciting things he’s ever witnessed.
When @RMcElhenney and I got into this it all felt so impossible. But impossible is @Wrexham_AFC‘s favourite colour. That was one of the most exciting things I’ve EVER seen. Thank you each and every Wrexham supporter who came out and aimed your heart at that pitch tonight ⚔️🏴⚔️ pic.twitter.com/s4dbCDJS7W
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) January 29, 2023
He even got to meet Premier League greats Alan Shearer and Mark Hughes into the bargain.
All in all, the game was a hefty slice of pure, uncut cup magic. And they get to do it all again for the replay at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, Feb. 7.