Purchased two years ago by American actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, the Welsh club Wrexham (5th division) will return to professional football next season. Last Saturday, the Red Dragons secured their place in the English League Two (D4). Gambian player Jacob Mendy, a key figure in this achievement, speaks about the club whose story is worthy of a Hollywood script.
Jacob Mendy was born in Faji Kunda, Gambia. At the age of six, he left Africa for Spain and the suburbs of Madrid where he built a modest football career. Rejected by the Atlético de Madrid Academy, he moved to England at 19 years old before passing through amateur clubs while also working in construction.
In a historic rise in just three years, he went from the the 9th division to the League Two, and in the space of a few months has become one of the strongest men among the Red Dragons. Each weekend he plays in front of 10,000 fans whose enthusiasm has returned after the arrival of the new Hollywood owners:
“A lot of people may have had their doubts because it’s kind of crazy, but every week, every month, they [Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney] show how invested they are in this club,” Mendy says.
With Hollywood calling, the takeover of the club by McElhenney and Reynolds, the latter known in particular for his role of mad superhero Deadpool, was the subject of its own documentary, “Welcome to Wrexham”.
The two men decided to join the world of football after being referred to the Netflix documentary “Sunderland ‘Til I Die”. The iconic series tells the story of the north of England club which was relegated in just two seasons from the Premier League to the third tier of English football through the eyes of its fans.
The sporting ambition for Wrexham is real and has resulted in ambitious investments and recruitment.
“We want to go all the way. We say it all the time, we want to get to the Premier League, as crazy as that sounds,” Reynolds recently told ESPN. “The interest in this club is astronomical and we think with the team we have now we have a very good chance of going up again next year.”
In order to play in the top echelon of English professional football, Wrexham and its star duo are considering bringing Gareth Bale out of retirement. The top Welsh player hung up his boots after winning the MLS title with Los Angeles FC.
Time for the first pro contract
At 26 years old, Jacob Mendy will finally sign his first professional contract and even dreams of wearing the Gambian national team jersey.
“It’s a dream come true for me to play in the Football League,” says Mendy. “When I signed, I knew it was a great opportunity, but it’s much bigger than I could have imagined. I knew the importance of the club, but I didn’t know that our journey would have such an impact on the world.”
All of which leaves plenty of food for thought for Season 2 of “Welcome to Wrexham.”