The 2022-23 season in the English National League (England’s 5th tier football league) has been defined by the phenomenal race at the top of the table between Wrexham AFC and Notts County. As good as Wrexham was this season, Notts County was equal to the task, keeping everyone in suspence all the way to the critical match at the Racecourse on April 10. It was a battle for the ages with (essentially) automatic promotion to League 2 (England’s Fourth Tier) to the winner, while the 2nd place team likely had to reckon with the playoff round for the final promotion spot. And as we all know, just about anything can happen in a playoff round, as Wrexham found out last year.
Yesterday, Notts County took on Boreham Wood with the winner going to Wembley for the National League Playoff final. Boreham Wood has the best defense in the National League. Notts County accumulated a record 107 points this season, a clear 25 points better than Boreham and only bested by Wrexham’s 111. All those facts didn’t matter yesterday, as Boreham took a 2-0 lead in the first half. And from there, Notts County staged a comeback for the ages – scoring the tying goal in the 97th minute of regulation – literally the last minute of the game (And you must remember, the April 10 game against Wrexham was decided in the last minute as well) – and then scored the winning goal 30 minutes into extra time. Just watch the highlight reel above. It is an amazing summary of the game – especially because each team had ample opportunities to score throughout the entire game.
The quality of football in the English Premier League is world class – there is no argument there. However, the energy, passion and enthusiasm that we have witnessed through this year’s National League season has been every bit as spectacular.
I admit it. I jumped onto the Wrexham AFC bandwagon as soon as I heard about Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchasing the club, and then went head first all in after watching the wonderful 1st season of their documentary “Welcome to Wrexham”. I started following Wrexham on ESPN – tracking their every game and checking the standings religiously. I carved out a Wrexham section in Apple News, salivating for any tid bit of news or information about the team and its upcoming matches, since the English National League (England’s 5th level soccer division – something similar to single A baseball here in the US) does not get much attention. I have been trying to purchase the Wrexham baseball cap that has their crest on the front. And as this season has progressed and it became apparent that Wrexham was in a record setting steel cage death match with Notts County (both teams have surpassed 100 points this season, an unheard of level of success for one team, much less two in the same season!) for promotion from the English National League to the EFL League 2 division (the English Football League’s 4th division) and that the April 10 match vs Notts County at Wrexham’s Racecourse Grounds was going to be an important match. And oh, did it deliver. Wrexham won 3-2 but that does not begin to tell the whole story. Take a few minutes to watch this short highlight video from the match – because it had literally everything, from Wrexham coming from behind to win, to the 40 year old goalkeeper who used to play for Manchester United (English football royalty), who came out of retirement a month ago to join Wrexham because their lead goalie was injured, making the game winning save on a Penalty Kick in the 96th and last minute of extra time. Yes, even Hollywood could not have written this.
What is most appealing to me about this whole story is how ‘all in’ both Reynolds and McElhenney are with their responsibility to the club and the city of Wrexham. There was a lot of conjecture early on that they both were doing this as a publicity stunt, but it is obvious from the documentary, from the way they have engaged with the Wrexham community, and from the level of investment that both have made to the club and the north Wales region, that they are fully 1000% committed for the long haul. Hell, Reynolds just bought a home outside of Wrexham. League 2 is just the first step in their quest. They have their sights set on the English Premier League. And the scary thing is – they may just get there. Earlier this year, Wrexham participated in the FA Cup – an elimination tournament that all English teams from the EPL to the National League participate – and went to the round of 16 by beating 3nd Division Coventry City at their home field, and then came thisclose to beating 2nd division Sheffield United. (Had they won that Sheffield United match, they would have hosted Harry Kane and Totteham Hotspur on Wrexham’s home field, The Racecourse Ground, which would have be an off the charts event). This team is legit and can hang with many of the top teams in English soccer.
I sincerely hope that Wrexham succeeds in their goal to achive automatic promotion to League 2. And I sincerely hope that Notts County wins the playoff to secure their promtion to League 2 as well, because they are just as deserving. I am, and will always be, a Newcastle United fan first – who themselves are having a spectacular season in the EPL – however I am unapologetic about joining the many newly minted Wrexham fans out there and look forward to riding this as long as they will let me.
Also, in honor of both teams, here are their Desktop Wallpapers that I created reflecting the kits they wore for yesterday’s match: Wrexham (Red) and Notts County (White)