Wrexham’s Phil Parkinson: ‘The owners are very genuine. They’ve got an incredible passion’

Ťhe Hollywood-style ‘Wrexham’ sign that suddenly appeared on an old slag heap above the A483 last weekend doubles as a neat analogy for the aspirations and challenges of the town’s revitalised football club. While new owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have injected glamour and investment, it is now Phil Parkinson’s responsibility to elevate Wrexham’s name after years of industrial decline.

“To be honest, there is expectation at Wrexham every year since they’ve been in this division,” said the club’s new manager, who starts his reign and the new National League season away at Solihull Moors on Saturday. The scheduled opener at home to Yeovil Town was postponed after a coronavirus outbreak among the opponents’ squad.

“That has built up more with the takeover and the publicity the club has got. We’ve got to live with that expectancy and we’ve got to get a squad capable of dealing with it. Are we the finished article yet? 不. But I feel we are getting there and we are trying to build a strong squad to tackle the challenges that lie ahead of us.”

No one has yet owned up to the new installation at the old Bersham colliery, which closed in 1986 with the loss of almost 500 工作, though Wrexham Council have stated it is nothing to do with them. The main suspects were Reynolds and McElhenney, the actor-producers who completed their takeover of the historic club in February after the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST) 投票 98% in favour of the deal.

雷诺兹, 然而, 发推文: “I wish I’d thought of that,” when asked whether he was the instigator on Thursday. A documentary series charting the high-profile pair’s ownership – Welcome to Wrexham – is currently in production for FX. The stars of Deadpool and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have enhanced Wrexham’s profile, blessed a fan’s marriage proposal and promoted local trailer manufacturer Ifor Williams since taking over a club that had been fan-owned since 2011.

But as immediately underlined by their £2m investment, and offer to compensate players for any wages lost while on furlough, there is serious sporting ambition behind the fun and publicity drive. Les Reed, Shaun Harvey and Peter Moore, the Football Association’s former technical director, former chief executive of the Football League and Liverpool’s former CEO respectively, have been appointed advisers to the board. The three conducted the search for a new manager alongside the Wrexham chief executive, Fleur Robinson.

Players have been enticed from Football League clubs this summer to play for a shirt now sponsored by TikTok. And Parkinson, whose managerial career extends to more than 800 games with six league clubs, has signed up for the stated aim of winning the one automatic promotion spot back to the Football League.

“Phil has an immediate objective of gaining promotion,” the co-chairmen said of his appointment. Parkinson, who replaced Dean Keates on a 12-month rolling contract in July after his predecessor failed to reach the play-offs, 说: “First of all the owners are very genuine in their vision for the club. They’ve got an incredible passion about what they want to achieve. Since I’ve come in everything they’ve said they would do they have backed up. They have been very supportive and they are serious – they want to win. They want to win, that’s the key. They are serious guys in terms of this challenge and myself, the rest of the staff and the support staff they have put in place have got a huge responsibility. But it is one we are all capable of coping with and we are all capable of making a success of.

“When I spoke to Rob he said: '看, me and Ryan want to be involved in football and we’ve got a plan for Wrexham but we’ve never ran a football club before, so we want to bring people in who know the industry.’ In other walks of life that is the normal way of operating but as you know, in football, a lot of people buy clubs and within a week think they can pick the team and sign the players and know the industry. Rob and Ryan have got people in place – Fleur Robinson as well, who has a terrific track record at Burton – to build a club for the future. If you’re a Wrexham fan you’ve got to be so excited about that.”

This will be, remarkably, Wrexham’s 14th season in non-league since their 87-year residence in the Football League ended amid turmoil and uncertainty in 2007-08. The club were the first to be docked 10 points for entering administration in 2004, ultimately suffering relegation from League One as a consequence. The Racecourse Ground’s existence was threatened when the former owner, Alex Hamilton, a property developer, ordered the club to move so that he could sell the site for retail. An administrator’s legal challenge helped save the day. Then came a winding up order from HMRC over an unpaid tax bill as WST were taking ownership. This is a club and a fanbase that deserves to bask in the optimism of a new campaign.

Wrexham are the bookmaker’s favourites for promotion. Parkinson has made seven signings so far including Paul Mullin, League Two’s player of the season last year when top scoring for Cambridge United. The prolific striker rejected the opportunity to extend his stay at Cambridge and play in League One having been sold on Wrexham’s ambition by a phone-call from McElhenney. A three-year contract for League Two’s leading marksman of last season is another signal of the co-owners’ intent.

“After I met Paul for a coffee and talked about the club I spoke to Rob and told him it would be a really good idea if he spoke to Paul as well,” the manager reveals. “We were competing with a lot of clubs for his signature and I thought it would be good for him to hear from Rob about what we are trying to do.

“One of the reasons the owners bought the club was because of the huge potential and the history of the club. It is too long for a club of this stature and this catchment area and potential to be out of the league but, listen, no one is going to hand it to us. We are going to have to work incredibly hard to be at the top of the league and the work started on the first day of pre-season.

There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with the infrastructure of the club and the owners are trying to build a club for the long term. The aim in the short term is to try and start the season well and get to the top of the league. Every game is going to be like a cup tie and we’ve got to be ready to play in that cup-tie manner.”