Had you told me a few years ago that I’d spend my Tuesday evening following a victory parade for a football team, I’d wonder which one of my bosses I’d p***ed off that week.

Had you added that I’d travelled four hours to Wrexham for the privilege and would be joined by tens of thousands of fans and two Hollywood actors, I'd have been convinced you were pulling my leg.

And yet, two unlikely new owners, a borrowed online streaming membership and a heartwarming underdog tale of a team rising from the ashes later, and there I was. And quite honestly, it’s the best Tuesday I’ve had in ages.

Read more: Wrexham victory parade as it happened

Now, I’m going to preface this whole account by saying I’m no football fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily get involved in following the national team when a tournament comes around, be the first to chip in for the sweepstake, and use it as an excuse to go to the pub. But sadly, that’s where the camaraderie ends. Until I went to Wrexham (no, I still can’t believe that either).

But after seeing the incredible scenes in Wales’ newest city as tens of thousands of fans lined the streets to congratulate their players, I think I finally get it. I get what it is all about.

Wrexham's owners may be film stars, but the drama of football here - with the city as an extension of that - is a blockbuster in itself, with the sea of crowds, haze of the red and white flare, and chorus of horns witnessed on their victory parade as its credits.

Of course, I’ve seen an open-top celebratory bus tour before, of course, I have. But they were for Champions League winners, or national teams returning from momentous tournaments.

But for the 40,000 (double what was predicted) Wrexham fans lining the streets on Tuesday, this celebration was no different.

40,000 football fans, people who want to celebrate the town, families celebrating their star players, and supporters from The United States, Canada, and Ireland, all lining the streets of a mining town.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve been there for it or even kept up with the ups and downs of the last 15 years and beyond, but in the decade and a half since Wrexham FC were last in the Football League there've been lots of hardships. From the heartbreak of that initial relegation to legal battles and questionable owners, it’s about time Dragons fans had some good news.

This all being said, what I lack in football knowledge, I make up for in pub expertise. So, on arriving at the Racecourse my first stop was The Turf pub next door. I mean, how could I resist a visit after the party my colleague Tom witnessed there as the team clinched promotion?

Around 40,000 people turned up to the victory parade

And while I was expecting what must be by now Wales’ most famous pub to be bursting at the seams, I was met instead with a cheerful but chilled atmosphere. The calm before the storm.

It turns out boozers aren’t wall-to-wall at 1pm, not even in Wrexham (the queues out the door came later). That being said, every table was full. Of families, of friends, long-term fans, and a clientele that followed through the whole evening (although if I’m honest I think the whole city was on the streets).

My first point of call was landlord Wayne Jones, the ringleader of the pub so popular it allegedly ran out of beer on promotion day. Unsurprisingly he was too busy for a “quick chat”, quipping that he’d “seen enough of his face on the internet this week”. I suppose I couldn’t argue with that. I mean, I’d recognised him straight away.

Instead, he pointed me in the direction of Wrexham-born-and-bred Paul Jones who had more than enough time to reminisce about the "absolutely wonderful" season for the club he has supported for 60 years.

"This season has been one of the most memorable seasons I can ever remember," he added. "I've seen some great Wrexham sides over the years, particularly the '78 side, but this one's up there. It's been absolutely wonderful, the records we've broken, the atmosphere at the ground. What's happening just now is unbelievable."

Not far behind him was Michael Hett, the lead singer of The Declan Swans. After coming through a recent cancer battle, it’s clear from the brief chat that we have that being featured in the Hollywood documentary had changed his - and his bandmates' - life. “We’ve gone from playing to a few hundred people to having a gig booked supporting Kings of Leon, I don’t think any of us can take it in.”

And while Wrexham is more than football, walking down to the city centre, it’s almost impossible to get away from. From jerseys hung in windows of houses, bunting adorning the high street, and murals and well-wishers on every corner - even in the window of a McDonald’s - the pride the whole city has for the team is evident.

As I walked back to the stadium and the starting point of the parade, even by 4:30pm, nearly two hours before it kicked off, people were already setting up for the best seats in the house. Camp chairs and all.

As thousands of people started to line the route - early on it was easily more than the 20,000 the council and club had forecast - it was obvious how much this promotion and resulting celebration - meant to everyone. From 17-year-old Millie Tipping who has been to every home game this season, to 78-year-old Gwyneth Jones who got married at the Racecourse after the team last got promoted.

Of course at this point, just as the important bit was happening (the whole point I was in Wrexham in the first place) the whole signal network went down. Haven’t all these 5G masts found a way to combat crowds yet?

My scheduled Facebook Live video streaming the parade soon went out the window, as did the ability to communicate virtually any updates back to my newsroom - including the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: "Are Ryan and Rob on the bus?!”.

But after stressing and switching my phone on and off - because that always works doesn’t it - I gave up and gave into the temptation of just enjoying the spectacle. As a new fan, very much still taking it in, I was soon swept away. At times, quite literally by the crowd.

After catching the buses not once, not twice but three times on their victory lap (the one-hour schedule by the council was shockingly ambitious), I found myself cheering for the players, singing along to Dakota by the Stereophonics with Rob McElhenney, and getting quite emotional at the whole affair.

It may have been Rob and Ryan singing ‘We are the Champions’ while surrounded by the women’s team or the men's team lifting the trophy, clearly overwhelmed with the celebrations, or it may have just been the togetherness of it all. But I was sold on this whole football malarkey.

Nearly two and a half hours after the three open-top buses left the Racecourse they were back home and the city breathed a sigh of relief. That was it. Their players had done it. The city had done it. And while I suspect the celebrations will continue through the summer, for now, they've managed it.

While Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have given hope to the community - which runs so much further than the geography of the city - it is clearer than ever that it is the fans who have saved this club.

If there’s a feeling that’s difficult to bottle it’s the infectious one echoing through the crowd that this is just the start. And if last night was anything to go by, I’d have a mind to believe it.


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