Shropshire Star

William downs shot and pulls pint during Wrexham football club visit

The Prince of Wales met Rob McElhenney at a pub near the ground.

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The Prince of Wales and Wrexham chairman Rob McElhenney share a drink

The Prince of Wales declared Wrexham are every football fan’s second club as he downed a shot and pulled a pint in the supporters’ home bar – and joked it needed time to settle.

William quizzed diehard fans about their fairytale ride with Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who bought Wrexham AFC and revived the club’s fortunes.

The future King met McElhenney and regulars in the Turf pub, a stone’s throw from Wrexham’s ground, and praised their achievements, which have boosted tourism and last season saw the club promoted to the Football League after a 15-year absence.

He said: “It’s a great success story you’re building here, everything you’ve started and achieved it’s fantastic, so onwards and upwards – it’s exciting.

“And anyone who’s a true football fan wants to see you do well.”

Missing was one of the club’s star owners, Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds, who was unable to travel from the US for the royal visit as he is editing the latest instalment of his Deadpool movie series.

Royal visit to Wales
William praised the rise of Wrexham FC (Chris Jackson/PA)

McElhenney and tenant landlord Wayne Jones took William behind the bar and he tried to pull a pint of the popular Madri lager. His first effort was all foam and declared “horrendous” by the prince and his second was not much better.

“Still got a horrible head on it, that’s why I don’t work behind the bar. That might settle in about an hour, talk among yourselves,” he quipped.

The Hollywood star suggested his own blended American whiskey brand, Four Walls, and the pair each knocked back a shot.

William has a high five with young fan Florence Boyle during his visit to The Turf
William has a high five with young fan Florence Boyle during his visit to The Turf (Chris Jackson/PA)

William, president of the FA, told a group of supporters about his own football journey with his club Aston Villa, how he was taken to matches as a young boy and a downturn in their fortunes almost 10 years ago rekindled his interest.

“When we got relegated it actually spurred me on to follow them more,” said the prince.

He made them laugh when he admitted: “The rise of smartphones, you can see more things and follow your team more closely, it makes you closer to your team – but it’s also emotionally worse.”

The prince travelled to Wales to spend the day marking St David’s Day and he later visited a local school to learn how they celebrated the saint’s day.

In the pub he met charities supported by the Turf including a local hospice and a food bank and later walked over to the football club to chat to manager Phil Parkinson and some of the players training on the pitch and was presented with a number nine shirt.

Wrexham have had a mini slump in form but remain fourth in League Two, three points behind leaders Mansfield Town, but their story has fascinated viewers from around the world thanks to the popular documentary Welcome To Wrexham.

William with his personalised Wrexham AFC shirt, meeting club chairman Ben Tozer, Rob McElhenney and captain Luke Young
William with his personalised Wrexham AFC shirt, meeting club chairman Ben Tozer, Rob McElhenney and captain Luke Young (Chris Jackson/PA)

Player Luke Young, who joined the club before the famous owners took over, told the prince: “The club has always been there as a sleeping giant, it just needed that umph to take it to the next level.”

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-creator McElhenney described the visit as an honour and said he had arrived in the early hours of Friday morning from Los Angeles, had a few hours sleep and a nap and would be flying back for filming on Monday.

He said: “Every time I walk through the gates it’s a spiritual experience – I get goosebumps still three years in.

“And I just love talking to people from all over the world who tell me they’ve come to visit, and they don’t come to see Ryan and I, they come to see the games of course but even if they don’t get a ticket they want to see and meet the people of the town.

“What we like to believe is that all we did was just take a spotlight and put it on the town, and that it was always here and just waiting for the right time for the spotlight to hit it.”

As William left the football club he was inundated with requests for selfies and posed with well-wishers, and was given a daffodil by three-year-old Florence Boyle, with her parents David and Katie Boyle on holiday from America.

Later he visited the nearby Gresford mining disaster memorial, commemorating the 266 men who died following an explosion at the Gresford Colliery in 1934.

St David’s Day was also marked by the Buckingham Palace announcement the King had taken on the role of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Welsh regiment, a position previously held by Queen Elizabeth II.

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