Ben Foster, Wrexham conquer the headlines
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than right. Whether it was intuition or blind luck that compelled Ryan Reynolds’ and Rob McElhenney’s Wrexham AFC soccer team to sign former Premier League goalkeeper-turned-YouTuber Ben Foster, it led to one of the biggest moments in sports this year.
Foster, a 40-year-old England international, saved a 96th-minute penalty against Notts County F.C. Monday to vault his side into first in the National League. The full-time announcement drew over twice times as many impressions and more total Twitter mentions in the 18 hours following the match than a weekend EPL showdown between Arsenal and Liverpool.
As the world becomes increasingly angled towards social media and online presence, Foster’s heroics have not only put his team in the driver’s seat to achieve promotion to the next tier of English soccer, but have also given Wrexham more interactions than it would have feasibly achieved otherwise.
Scenes from the pitch
Notts County entered the Monday match with Wrexham in first place in the league table, but with an extra game played. The team that finishes in first place achieves automatic promotion to EFL League Two and the next six play one another to fight for the two remaining spots, meaning that the result was crucial for both sides.
Notts County struck first but by the 95th minute, Wrexham had managed to pull ahead 3-2. That’s when a Notts County player was brought down in the box, and Cedwyn Scott stepped to the penalty spot.
Foster, a former Manchester United keeper that spent a year on loan at Wrexham in 2005, only came out of retirement to solve a goalkeeping crisis at the club a month prior.
With the importance of promotion looming heavy in the background, Foster dove to his right and clawed the ball away from the goal perfectly. The referee blew his whistle about a minute later, and Wrexham moved into first in the table.
Actor Ryan Reynolds, who purchased the team for $2.5m along with “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star and creator Rob McElhenney in November 2020, said he didn’t “have a heart anymore” after watching the game from the stands.
That was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
“I think I used all the beats I had left during that match,” said Reynolds. “That was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Why is Wrexham so popular?
Foster’s save, while a heroic moment in soccer and sports, was only in the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer. And although it helps Wrexham’s case for promotion, there are still four games left in the season. So why is it so impactful?
First, Foster is combining the world of athletics and YouTube in a way that has never been done before. He sticks a GoPro in the back of the net during each match, giving his 1.35 million subscribers to his “Ben Foster – The Cycling GK” channel unmatched access to his games. That includes footage from the Notts County-Wrexham match, which features shots from the goal and stands, plus reactions from fans, players, and club executives, including Reynolds.
have made the club as much of a talking point in America as any MLS side
In addition, Wrexham is becoming a cultural phenomenon for Americans because of the investment from the two entertainment stars. Reynolds and McElhenney regularly attend games in the 60,000-person town in northeast Wales and have made the club as much of a talking point in America as any MLS side.
On top of that, Wrexham, despite being founded in 1864 and the third-oldest professional soccer team in the world, is just like a sapling. It has never been higher than EFL League One in modern history, but has undergone serious change under the new owners, including a redesign of facilities, a sponsorship deal with TikTok, and a television show called “Welcome to Wrexham,” all of which have led it to grow and develop quickly.
If the club achieves its bid for promotion, it will become more attractive to players looking for a new home and also receive an economic boost from television deals. All the more content for Foster to document and for Wrexham to market.