FOR Wrexham fans, since the club’s purchase by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, each week has brought another story that’s left us pinching ourselves and asking “Is this real?”.

After fans went to extreme lengths to save the club from unscrupulous owners in the past, how could it be that there was now interest in the club from Hollywood stars?

The short term goal was to get promotion to League Two after 14 years of playing at non-league level. That league’s top scorer from the previous season was offered a contract extension with the team he’d just won promotion to League One with. Cambridge United had even named a stand at their ground after him, but Paul Mullin was dropping two leagues to play at the Racecourse.

Ben Tozer, captain of League One team Cheltenham Town soon followed, alongside a number of other signings from higher leagues including Aaron Hayden from Carlisle United and James Jones from Lincoln City.

In a league with only two promotion spots and shoestring budgets, one-year contracts are the norm, and squads struggle to build consistency over the longer term. All of a sudden Wrexham were offering three-year contracts to players used to playing against opposition players who didn’t have day jobs.

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Were these football mercenaries looking to cash in before the ends of their short careers, or was it possible that they could fall in love with this historic Welsh club?

It was a slow start to the season as the new squad settled, but it was an even worse start for eventual champions Stockport County. After only two wins from their first seven, they felt like an easy win when Wrexham fans visited Edgeley Park, only for the Hatters to come away with the three points.

County manager Simon Rusk only survived another month, but their defeat of Wrexham felt like a turning point for a team whose fans had been embarrassed of their performances up to that point.

There had been moments where the dreamlike quality of the pre-season came to the fore on the pitch, including Paul Mullin’s miraculous stoppage time winner at Halifax in November, but the real change at the Racecourse didn’t come until the January transfer window.

Wrexham broke their record transfer fee to sign Ollie Palmer from AFC Wimbledon - the club he grew up supporting, who his own grandfather had played for, and for whom he expected to retire in the next few years as a bona fide club legend. Yet another player dropping two leagues, and buying into the dream.

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Towards the end of 2021, star signing Paul Mullin was practically playing as a lone attacker, and with Wrexham’s smaller midfield players out-muscled frequently, he was running himself ragged as he retreated to his own half to get the ball.

Playing through niggles and injuries, he was obviously committed to Wrexham (whose fans had already taken him to their hearts), but a clearly frustrated Mullin was prone to lashing out, and two red cards in this period of the season saw Wrexham’s most potent scoring threat suspended for a number of games, and somewhat ineffective when he was on the pitch.

The addition of the six feet and five inches of Ollie Palmer was the late Christmas present that Mullin, manager Phil Parkinson, and Wrexham fans all desperately needed.

Proving himself as more than just a target player, Palmer scored on his debut against Grimsby and his passionate celebration showed those in attendance at the Racecourse that he wasn’t there to build an extension on his house and buying a new car before riding off into the sunset.

As Wrexham eventually got into gear, Chesterfield’s league-leading scorer Kabongo Tshimanga suffered a season-ending injury and Stockport replaced them at the top of the table while they eventually scraped a spot in the play-offs.

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There were twelve points between the Dragons and Stockport at this point, and over the course of the next three months that gap was closed with more dream football; a 97th minute winner away at Wealdstone, THAT eleven-goal game against Dover, and the symbolic victory over Stockport in the FA Trophy with two injury time goals from Paul Mullin to settle it.

Wrexham fans could hardly believe it. This wasn’t “typical Wrexham”. We were being dared to dream, and why not? If following Wrexham teaches you anything, it’s to make the most of absolutely every single tiny positive moment you might encounter.

While it was set up for the dream ending - the perfect Hollywood script on the last day, it’s that spectre of the typical Wrexham throughout the season that has sent the team to the play-offs instead of automatic promotion.

A turgid and uninspiring 0-0 draw away at Bromley on a beautiful day in March, the loss at Woking knowing that Stockport had unbelievably lost earlier that afternoon to lowly Yeovil Town, and the failure to beat a ten man Boreham Wood who scored an injury time winner from a penalty.

Typical Wrexham.

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On the last day of the season, Stockport County scored their second goal against Halifax almost simultaneously with Dagenham & Redbridge taking the lead against Wrexham. There was definitely a Hollywood script being written for the day’s events, but Wrexham weren’t the main characters.

This season has seen dream football alongside the typical Wrexham, but it’s also seen Wrexham winning ugly and grinding out results. Nobody will forget the goalfest against Dover at the Racecourse, but the reverse fixture was attritional and nervy with Jordan Davies claiming his badly cleared corner as the difference between two teams who should never have been as close as they were on that freezing cold day.

The mental strength of this squad, their ability to win, sets them apart from other Wrexham squads of the non-league era.

Wrexham play their games at Wales’ spiritual home of football, but next week’s FA Trophy final will be an opportunity for them to play at England’s spiritual home.

This big game day in front of tens of thousands of travelling fans is exactly why players have dropped leagues to play for Wrexham. It should be a chance to get back to playing their dream football before their run in the play-offs as the team that everyone wants to avoid playing. On the way to the Football League.

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