Wrexham 90 minutes from FA Trophy Wembley glory, but is promotion the real test of success?

Wrexham fans are dreaming of a cup and play off double Credit: PA

By ITV Wales Journalist Gareth Axenderrie

With hours until tens of thousands of Wrexham faithfuls head south east to Wembley Stadium, the Dragons are once again dreaming of silverware.

Wrexham are no strangers to the FA Trophy, a competition made up of teams from the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth tiers of the English football pyramid.

The club won it in 2013 when they beat Grimsby at Wembley, and returned in 2015, only to be beaten on penalties by North Ferriby United, a club that has since been liquidated.

The difference this time is that Wrexham go with a genuine weight of expectation.

Following a season where they have carved out an identity, fallen in love with Hollywood owners, packed The Racecourse and come within a whisker of the National League title, a newly-crowned city expects.

A Wembley cup final is always a magical day out, especially for clubs that rarely visit. However, would a victory be enough to consider Wrexham’s season a success?

All eyes on the trophy, despite disappointment and temptation to look ahead

Wrexham still have the play offs to come, after falling short in their automatic promotion bid Credit: PA

There will be a temptation to keep one eye on the play offs following a disappointing final day of the regular season that saw Wrexham lose a meaningless game to Dagenham 3-0 as Stockport secured promotion and the league title with victory against Halifax.

Two back to back victories would see Wrexham return to the Football League for the first time since 2008.

However, the days that go down in a club's folklore are those where your captain lifts a trophy to rapturous applause and the game is talked about on trains and buses home until voices are hoarse and the beer is finished.

While Sunday may not be the crescendo of Wrexham’s season, for the next 24 hours, players and coaches have to treat it as such.

Bromley have nothing to lose

Cup finals are often levellers, and Bromley won't mind the underdog tag Credit: PA

For Bromley, Sunday is now effectively a giant killing exercise.

The London-based club finished tenth in the National League this season, 21 points behind Wrexham, meaning they come into the final as underdogs.

The Ravens are a dangerous beast for that reason, and they will relish the chance to crush high flying Wrexham and disappoint their Hollywood owners.

The last time the two sides met, Bromley kept a clean sheet and prevented the Dragons’ potent strike partnership of Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer from scoring.

The pair have 41 league goals between them this season, and Bromley will have to keep them quiet. If they can do that, they’re on a rich vein of scoring in the cup to date, with 10 goals in their five games so far.

For Wrexham, the 20,000 people who have bought tickets will aim to make Wembley a home from home. Last time they played Bromley at The Racecourse, in November, they won 2-0.

Would a cup final win be enough to call the season a success?

Paul Mullin is The National League's top scorer this season with 26 goals Credit: PA

A cup final victory would taste ultra-sweet for Wrexham fans who have endured some torrid times over the last decade.

The good times have rolled back into town since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the club last year, and there has been plenty of reason for cheer at the Racecourse throughout the season.

Injury-time winners and goal heavy outings have been more commonplace as the season has progressed and you get the sense the momentum and energy has been building to a climax.

The fascinating thing about Sunday’s cup final is that, regardless of the result, Wrexham will go again.

If they win, Phil Parkinson has to ground his troops once more for a final push at the play offs, which could see them return to Wembley for the final. Momentum will be on his side.

If they lose, the manager has an even greater task of picking them up again. After building so much energy since the new year, a back to back defeat would be a massive drop in gear at a time when momentum can be the difference between promotion and stagnation.

For that reason, Sunday’s final takes on even more significance.

Promotion has always been the aim for this season. That’s why the likes of Palmer, Mullin and Tozer were signed from leagues above. Regardless of the result on Sunday, that’s what this side will be judged on when they head away for their summer holidays.

Feel good factor is here to stay

Some fans have described the club as 'unrecognisable' since its Hollywood takeover Credit: PA

That said, whatever happens on the field, the huge strides made by the club off the field is building for the medium to long term.

Bringing The Racecourse back under the club’s ownership will give Wrexham more autonomy in shaping the famous old ground they call home.

Judging by the size of crowds this season - Wrexham have the highest average home attendance in the league - a larger capacity ground may be needed in the coming seasons. Redeveloping the famous Top stand will be central to that aim.

Wrexham fans now have a club they are proud of once again. Yes, that is shaped by success on the field, but it’s also about how the club - from boardroom to kit room - is representative of its history, identity and values.

It’s also worth noting that, with the Football League season at an end, Wrexham are the only one of Wales’ four major clubs playing in the English leagues to still be in promotion and trophy contention.

Wrexham are back on the path to realising the club's potential as a powerhouse of Welsh football in the north of the country. Nothing suggests a calamitous end to the season would derail long term goals and ambitions.

However, those aims would become easier and sweeter on the back of cup success and in the fully professional ranks.