The Consoling Tao of Ryan Reynolds

I have to make a confession: I didn’t feel nearly as gutted at the final whistle on Saturday as I ought to have done. Our season had just ended in the most cruel, dramatic manner possible. All that work, all those dreams, everything about the last year, had come to nothing. We’d scaled remarkable heights, pulled off ludicrous feats of escapology and heroism, but ended up exactly where we started.

And I wasn’t nearly as upset as I thought I would be.

There’s a reason. I’m not a psychopath, and I’m not a closet Chester fan. I didn’t rent a plane to gloatingly point out that Stockport were up (if I was daft enough to waste money on a stunt like that, I’d not allowed out of the house!)

Instead, I remembered something Ryan Reynolds said, combined it with something I know, and was able to take consolation in the big picture.

On his first visit to the club, Reynolds talked about how the soap opera of football attracted him. Sport, he explained, is a story, and the unfolding of that story is what attracts him to it. Let’s be honest, it’s what attracts documentary-makers to it too!

I got a little excited when I heard him say this, because that’s always been how I’ve seen it for years. Viewing the game in that way has helped me to accept the defeats in a fairly philosophical manner, I think, because somewhere in my head I’m telling myself that this is part of the great story of Wrexham: there are lows and highs, and the latter taste all the sweeter because we go through the former.

To give an example, I suffered through the 1980s, a decade in the wilderness. The ten lowest average attendances in our history were all recorded in those years, we suffered two relegations and nearly dropped out of the Football League. We could easily have gone bankrupt in the mid-1980s too.

When we emerged from that dark decade by beating Arsenal in 1992, it felt like karma. The universe had adjusted itself and repaid the loyal band who stuck with the club for their loyalty. It felt all the more sweet for all the suffering.

Cynics might argue that our agonising demise on Saturday sets the second season of “Welcome to Wrexham” up beautifully. Actually, I agree with them! A dramatic failure will be a real hook for new fans, and when we bounce back in the second series, it’ll be a hell of a good watch.

I’m not being flippant: the truth is that the documentary is completely for our benefit. We’re going to enjoy an audience much larger than anything we’ve previously enjoyed. It’s all part of the financial plan to grow the club.

That’s where my other reason for accepting Saturday’s disappointment lies. Throughout our frantic run-in I had a safety net: if we don’t go up this time, next season will be a blast!

Don’t get me wrong: I’d much rather go up right now; losing to Grimsby sets the project back a year. But, as Rob McElhenney was at pains to point out after the defeat, the owners are in this for the long haul. It’s a bump in the road, but we’re still heading in the right direction.

The thing which really encourages me is how out of character this optimism is. I’m not naturally someone who assumes we’ll win every game, and I don’t share the blind hope of assuming every team we assemble in the close season will be “the one”.

However, the logic of optimism is irresistible in this case. We’ll keep this squad together as we’ve no financial need to sell. If we do lose a key player, they’re all under long-term contracts, so we can make their suitors pay through the nose for them, and buy flashy replacements.

Furthermore, we’ve shown that we can attract quality players to the fifth tier. Since signing Paul Mullin, every player we’ve brought in, apart from stopgap signings, have been from two divisions above us, and have been of the calibre to stand out at that level.

We’ll bring in three or four more players of that calibre, blend them in with the current squad, and who’s going to stop us?

A lot of people I’ve spoken to have done those typical Summer calculations, working out which sides will be a threat next season. I’ve been pouring cold water on the conversations though, because I genuinely don’t think it matters how strong our opposition will be. Surely, we’ll be able to overwhelm anyone in the fifth tier next season.

So mourn this season by all means, but don’t get too low. Next season is going to be a hell of a ride!

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