Paul Mullin opens up on his son's autism diagnosis and his fear of not being good enough

Our interview is scheduled to start at 2:00pm. Paul Mullin arrives on the dot.

It’s his day off but he’s made the 40-minute drive from his home in Liverpool to the STōK Cae Ras - The Racecourse in old money - to speak to us.

I ask if he has any idea about what I might want to cover in the interview. He says he doesn’t but at the same time, the Wrexham striker doesn’t look particularly phased by the unknown.

Everyone has a story and Mullin is prepared to tell his with authenticity and a splash of vulnerability.

Not all athletes are like this.

Many don’t want to discuss things that extend beyond their chosen field of play. But Mullin can’t wait for the conversation to go there.

Mullin's son Albi was diagnosed with autism last year after a long battle for answers.

He has a four-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism last year.

“It's the best gift I could ever have, becoming a parent,” he says, unable to keep the smile off his face.

“Albi is unbelievable, he’s such a loving, happy child.”

His voice cracks with emotion as he continues: “And I wouldn't have him any other way because he's just my boy and he's perfect.

“He just takes everything in his stride and it's such a joy to be his parent. He could make it so difficult for us at times, but he never does. He makes it as easy as possible.”

Albi was diagnosed last year after a long battle for answers.

In his new book - My Wrexham Story - Mullin talks about feeling guilty in relation to his son’s diagnosis.

“I struggled a lot when Albi was really young,” he admits. “Before he was diagnosed, even though deep down we knew he could be autistic.

“It was a really tough time for me personally.

“I’d actually sit there and say to myself ‘right, you have to teach him this, it’s your job, you’re his dad, you’ve got to guide him and teach him’.

“I’d spend untold hours trying to reach a goal. I don’t know what I was trying to do because it wasn’t going to work.

“It was a bit like banging my head off the wall but I was willing to try it. I’d do anything.

“Every night I’d go to bed and if Albi hadn’t responded to what I was doing then I’d feel guilty.

“I could go out to the shops and feel guilty about potentially missing the couple of seconds where he might interact or learn something.

“I struggled with the thought of not being good enough as a dad.”

In 2022, things turned a corner. Mullin, his partner and their little boy went on holiday shortly after Wrexham suffered heartache in the play-off semi-final defeat to Grimsby.

“Me and his mum decided that on holiday we weren’t going to push him to learn anything, we were just going to try and relax, and whatever Albi wants to do, he can do,” he said.

“Those were the three weeks where I’d most enjoyed myself and it was the most Albi had come on in months.

“We just all relaxed and stopped stressing and that was a big thing I took away from that period.

“I learned to stop expecting things from Albi because, ultimately, I’m not going to be the one to decide whether he’s going to talk or not.

“I have to learn from Albi, not him learning from me. I think I’m getting a lot better at that but I’ve probably still got a long way to go.

“Albi rules our house and he’ll always rule me. That’s just the way it is.”

Before joining Wrexham, Mullin was carving out a pretty handy career for himself in English football. He scored a record number of goals in League Two for Cambridge United before joining Wrexham but, as he’d admit himself, nobody in Los Angeles knew who he was.

Joining Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds’ project in the north changed all of that.

He soared to stardom in his first season with the Dragons, playing a leading role on the pitch and in the documentary that was charting the club’s trials and tribulations.

But last year he found himself in hot water for the first time and was banned from wearing a pair of boots that had an anti-Conservative party slogan on the side of them.

The club quickly moved to distance themselves from the boots, a move that drew the approval of the Wrexham MP and other senior Conservatives.

But the man himself insists he has no regrets, despite being caught off guard by just home many people cared about what he had to say.

“The first time I realised that people might care about what I portray or say in the media was when I put a photo of me boots up,” he says. “Unfortunately I didn’t get to wear them but I’ve still got them in the house for safekeeping.

“One day when they’re not needed anymore maybe I’ll auction them off.

“I don't regret them at all, no. If people can kick off on the radio or the TV in the headlines about three words on the side of my boots, maybe they should use that energy to highlight the fact that there's a lot of child poverty in the country and a lot of other bigger problems than a set of football boots.”

Mullin didn’t wear the boots and avoided a ban in the process. But the whole episode did spark another idea.

“The first set of boots made me realise that people do care what I have to say,” he explains. “So then I used it for a greater point and something that I was a lot more passionate about personally because it's got a personal touch to it about my son.

“I made some football boots revolving around autism and trying to highlight awareness for that.

“And, you know, that is something that I'm really passionate about and I talk about all the time. Politics isn't my game, I don't really want to get into that. It's just not for me.

“But I can use the attention I have received to raise as much awareness and acceptance as I can for autism, and that's what I aim to do.”

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