The worst thriller in the world
Calm down, calm down
“Your stress levels are unusually high. Calm down.”
Inside the emotional tsunami at The Racecourse last Sunday - where rapture and despair intermittently crashed over the stands for 120 relentless minutes - there was a quiet, disembodied voice of reason. A smartwatch.
Just a few minutes into the second half of the play-off semi-final, this mini computer gently squeezed the wrist of one supporter in the Tech End and offered them a polite reminder to relax.
“Your stress levels are unusually high. Calm down.” read the message.
Everyone is always talking about the dark side of tech these days - but on Saturday 28 May, a machine offered some essential, impartial and valuable advice in a situation where 9,000 human beings could not.
Wrexham vs Grimsby was, we forgot, just a game. Not that it felt like anything remotely resembling a sporting fixture at the time.
Participating as a spectator in the play-off semi-final was more akin to an interval training session where you got a warm hug at one checkpoint and a punch in the stomach at the next.
The whole thing was exhausting. We danced like wedding guests one moment and sat in sickened silence like funeral attendees the next. We prayed and we mourned. We praised and we criticised. We laughed and we cried. All during the same two hours.
None of it made any sense. And ultimately, there was no reward. The Reds were out.
Perhaps it was foolish to have expected anything else. The manner of Grimsby’s 5-4 victory was utterly unpredictable, but the outcome was not. Anyone playing Wrexham in the play-offs needs luck like a fish needs a bicycle: Losing to the gill-bearers from Grimsby means we’ve now fudged the eliminators as many as five times.
Our stinking play-off record aside, Grimsby’s victory was as deserved as it was insane. And the Hollywood camera crews scattered around the ground - many of whom will have developed a soft spot for the club having spent the best part of a year in amongst the Red Army - will nonetheless have been left salivating by the tumultuous action unfolding on the field. This was documentary fodder to rival Sunderland 'Till I Die.
In the space of two-and-a-half weeks, Wrexham had lost the title, the cup final, the play-offs and, if you’re being fussy, the City of Culture bid - with the
town mercilessly mocked by everyone from Twitter’s Stockport badge trolls with 10 followers to Media Editor of The Guardian Jim Waterson.
Only a Wales victory - which reserved the nation’s place at the admittedly much-maligned 2022 World Cup in Qatar - proved something of an antidote to take the edge off a week in which Wrexham was smacked around from all sides.
One of the few groups refusing to rub salt in the wounds were, ironically, Grimsby themselves. Post-match, a long line of Reds took turns to shake the hands of some rosy-cheeked fishmongers supping pints in the Nag’s Head beer garden, wishing them well for the final.
“Wrexham fans are fucking well sound,” one Grimsby fan gasped, his laboured breathing still yet to recover from a torturous time on the terraces.
“I hope we go up and I hope you do it next year.”
mgwrexham 🔴⚪️🏴 @mgwrexham@MarinersTrust And for @shaunpearson5 who always done is proud #WrexhamAFC https://t.co/cTa1ffa8Fg
This response was even more humble when you consider that Grimsby were writing the kind of thrilling football folklore that seemed destined to travel far beyond the Humber and right around the world. After extra-time victories over Notts County and the Reds, their story was just one chapter short of a masterwork. The Great Grimsby - a Tinseltown-like tale we’d been trying to write ourselves in North Wales all season - was almost complete.
Fans from across the division - including many Reds - chipped in to help hundreds of kippered Mariners reach the Big Smoke for the final, with league sponsors Vanarama donating an additional £20,000 to help cover the extortionate costs (prompting the National League to make a sheepish admission they “don’t get everything right”.)
At half-time, though, many Grimsby fans could have been forgiven for wishing they hadn’t bothered, with Kyle Hudlin - the most unlikely of Manchester City transfer targets since the acquisition of Richard Wright - seemingly booking Solihull’s spot alongside the Quasi Mancs in the Football League next season.
But remarkably the Mariners managed to conjure up yet another extra-time victory - meaning their most recent spell in the pits of non-league would end after just a single season. Moors have been one of the most consistent, stubborn and tactically adept sides in 2022, so to overturn them after playing so much football in recent weeks was an achievement worthy of promotion.
If it had to be anyone else, we’re glad it’s Grimsby. Even if they were responsible for leaving a fishy smell on the biggest shit sandwich served up in Wrexham
town this year. They saved their best showings for when it mattered, whereas we’d apparently used up our allotted number of limbs-inducing winners in the regular season.
Another year in the National League it is, then. Our fifteenth in a row. And now the focus shifts away from the noise of the field to the crank of the rumour mill. Rob McElhenney has already gotten the gears churning by suggesting he might move to bring Gareth Bale to North Wales. There is a golf club or two round here, which might swing it.
On the other side of the coin, we’ll all be engaging in collective prayer that our chairmen can bat off clubs trying to pry Pele Mullin - National League Player of the Year - away from the
town that’s bellowed his name every week for the past nine months.
ESPN UK @ESPNUKWhere will we see Gareth Bale next season? 🤔 https://t.co/7EzdDh8cUW
It’s going to be an interesting summer.
Everyone ready for another go?