Football Features

From Pogba to Portugal’s assistant, famous footballers you might not know played for Wrexham

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:30, 25 March 2023

“You know what we need to do? We need to build a f***ing team. We need them tough, morally flexible, and young enough so they can carry this franchise ten to twelve years.” – Ryan Reynolds, 2018

When Reynolds said that, he was in character as Deadpool talking about assembling the team X-Force, but he might have also been signalling his intention to purchase a football team in real life because two years later that’s exactly what he has done.

After securing the backing of the Wrexham Supporters Trust and league and FA approval, the RR McReynolds Company, owned by Reynolds and fellow actor Rob McElhenney, have officially taken control of Wrexham AFC.

This is a huge boon for Wrexham, who currently play in the National League, the fifth tier of football across England and Wales (fighting for promotion to League Two). As the third (or fourth) oldest football club in the world, Wrexham is certainly an institution with plenty of history but they have never played in the top flight, their highest finish being 15th place in Division Two (the second tier of the game) back in 1979.

Despite this, Wrexham is a club rich in tradition (which is probably what attracted the Hollywood duo in the first place) and has seen some notable names pass through their doors. We’ve come up with a combined XI of famous footballers who played for Wrexham.

Goalkeeper: Ben Foster

Associated with: Manchester United, Birmingham, West Brom and Watford
Time at Wrexham: 2005, 2023-
League appearances: 17

Ben Foster never managed to make the grade at Manchester United, but he’s been spectacular pretty much everywhere else he’s played since then, even winning the League Cup in 2011 with Birmingham. However, before his United struggles, he was a Stoke player and spent half a season on loan with Wrexham, where he helped them win the 2005 Football League Trophy. He has actually since come out of retirement to play for the club, recently keeping a clean sheet during his second debut.

Centre-back: Ritchie de Laet

Associated with: Manchester United and Leicester
Time at Wrexham: 2008
League appearances: 3

Here’s another player who played half a season on loan at Wrexham from Stoke just before failing to make the grade at Manchester United. Post Old Trafford, De Laet wasn’t anywhere near as impactful as Foster in general, however, but he did play a part as Leicester did the impossible and won the 2016 Premier League which is a highlight that’s hard to top. He also spent the second half of that same season on loan helping Middlesbrough win promotion from the Championship. The Belgian is now at Royal Antwerp.

Centre-back: Frank Sinclair

Associated with: Chelsea and Leicester
Time at Wrexham: 2009-2011
League appearances: 57

Frank Sinclair was one hell of a defender back in the day, and something of a cup legend. Sinclair won the 1997 FA Cup and 1998 League Cup for Chelsea before joining Leicester and winning the 2000 League Cup. He spent just two seasons with Wrexham nearly a decade later but wasn’t able to bring his cup-winning magic to Wales.

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Centre-back: Neil Taylor

Associated with: Swansea and Aston Villa
Time at Wrexham: 2007-2010
League appearances: 75

Out of position a little here is someone more heavily associated with Swansea City, given Taylor’s seven years of sterling service for them. But while he made his name in South Wales with Swansea, he broke through in North Wales with Wrexham, playing three years before moving south.

Right-wing-back: Carlos Edwards

Associated with: Sunderland and Ipswich
Time at Wrexham: 2000-2005
League appearances: 166

Carlos Edwards played for many clubs but is mostly associated with his time in the Premier League with Sunderland. However, the winger, who went on to have a great run at Ipswich, actually emerged with Wrexham and was part of their 2005 Football League Trophy success, starting in the final.

Central midfield: Darren Ferguson

Associated with: Peterborough United (as manager)
Time at Wrexham: 1999-2007
League appearances: 310

This is a strange one because as a player, Darren Ferguson played a colossal 310 times for Wrexham and indeed scored the second goal in that 2005 Football League trophy win as captain. However, few really think of him as a player outside of his failure to make it at Manchester United, they think of him as Sir Alex Ferguson’s son or as a manager. In that respect, he is most closely associated with Peterborough, where he has managed them over three separate spells for a total of 463 games.

Central midfield: Joe Allen

Associated with: Swansea and Stoke
Time at Wrexham: 2008
League appearances: 2

Another player with Stoke connections here, and also Swansea, Joe Allen’s time at Wrexham was very brief indeed. At the age of just 18, Swansea sent him on loan to North Wales on a month’s loan, where he played just twice before returning to make his name.

Left-wing-back: Alan Kennedy

Associated with: Liverpool
Time at Wrexham: 1989-1990
League appearances: 16

Before Sergio Ramos, Alan Kennedy was the defender with the big-game goalscoring reputation. The left-back won five league titles, four League Cups and two European Cups, scoring in both the 1981 and 1983 League Cup finals, notching the winning penalty in the 1984 European Cup final but most impressively of all scoring the winning goal against Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup final. This epic player is so closely linked to Liverpool that very few will be aware that he spent a season at Wrexham later in his career.

Right-forward: Jonathan Walters

Associated with: Stoke
Time at Wrexham: 2005-2006
League appearances: 38

Another Stoke man, Jonathan Walters is a true warrior of a player. But before he became famous with Stoke, he had actually spent a season at Wrexham, joining just too late to be a part of the Football League Trophy win.

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Left-forward: Mathias Pogba

Associated with: Crewe
Time at Wrexham: 2010-2012
League appearances: 68

Mathias and Florentin are the twin elder brothers of Paul Pogba, which is what they’re mostly known for. However, they are players in their own right and Mathias probably got the most attention for his spell at Crewe, but just before that he was playing for Wrexham as Paul was living with him and trying (unsuccessfully) to break into the Manchester United side.

Striker: Ian Rush

Associated with: Liverpool
Time at Wrexham: 1998-1999
League appearances: 17

Another Liverpool connection, only this time it’s goalscoring genius, Ian Rush. The Welsh wonder actually started his career at Wrexham’s great rivals Chester before moving to Liverpool and, two frustrating years in Turin aside, spent the better part of the next 16 years hammering goals in for the Reds. Rush won the lot for Liverpool, but when he left and began a journeyman spell, one of his stops was at Wrexham, where he quite frustratingly failed to score a single goal in 17 games.

Daniel Bachmann

Associated with: Watford
Time at Wrexham: 2014-2015
League appearances: 15

Now Watford’s starting No.1 and a 13-capped Austria international, there was a time when a fresh-faced Bachmann was trying to earn his stripes while manning the sticks at the Racecourse Ground. Then at Stoke City, the teenager was sent out on loan to Wrexham for his first taste of senior action in 2014/15, and he showed some of his early promise in Wales, making 15 league appearances as the club comfortably finished mid-table in the National League.

Xavi Valero

Associated with: Liverpool & West Ham
Time at Wrexham: 2005-2006
League appearances: 3

Xavi Valero is one of the greatest goalkeeping coaches of his generation, but he wasn’t actually a very illustrious shot-stopper during his career, taking up spells with lower league Spanish clubs, before a completely random stint with Wrexham in 2005/06. With first-choice ‘keeper Andy Dibble out of action, manager Denis Smith signed Valero on a one-month, non-contract deal based purely on video footage, and he actually went on to make three appearances. You will probably know Valero as one of Rafa Benitez’s most reliable coaches, taking him from Valencia to Liverpool, Inter, Real Madrid and Napoli. He is now the current goalkeeping coach of West Ham.

Anthony Barry

Associated with: Chelsea & Portugal
Time at Wrexham: 2010, 2016-17
League appearances: 31

Anthony Barry has forged quite the coaching reputation since calling time on his playing career. Having been Paul Cook’s assistant at Wigan Athletic, where he was also a part of Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland set-up, Barry was eventually brought to Chelsea by Frank Lampard. The 36-year-old combined his work at Chelsea — where he was retained by Thomas Tuchel — with Roberto Martinez for Belgium, and is now the assistant manager of Portugal. Tuchel also wants to bring him to Bayern Munich. Before that, though, Barry was turning out in the lower leagues, finishing his career for Wrexham in the 2016/17 season.