“Super” Paul Mullin is injured.
It’s the latest drama with Wrexham AFC, the Welsh soccer club made famous by its celebrity owners, actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Wrexham had been enjoying a mini tour of the United States until Mullin, its star striker, suffered a punctured lung and was hospitalized Tuesday night after a brutal collision with Manchester United goalkeeper Nathan Bishop.
The team that’s been introduced to the world via the docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham” won 3-1 in the friendly against Man U’s under-21 team in front of a record crowd of 34,248 at San Diego State’s Snapdragon Stadium. But the regular season starts in less than two weeks and losing Mullin for any length of time will be a big setback for the club that last season earned a long-sought promotion to English soccer’s fourth tier.
Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson said the team didn’t immediately know how long Mullin will be out, but a punctured lung can take six to eight weeks to heal.
“We’ll give Paul every bit of support we can to get him back as soon as possible,” Parkinson said. “One thing about Mulls is, he’s tough.
“Obviously it’s a massive blow for us,” Parkinson said. “Injuries are part and parcel of football and you’ve got to deal with them as a group and we will do it and we will come out stronger.”
Mullin was attempting a header when Bishop challenged him just outside the box in the 11th minute and the two went down. Mullin was in obvious pain and was down for about seven minutes. A stretcher and a cart were sent out and Mullin was surrounded by medical personnel. He eventually got up and slowly walked off the pitch with assistance while wearing an oxygen mask.
Bishop was not injured and was booed every time he touched the ball. Many fans didn’t notice that Bishop was subbed out at halftime and they continued to boo every time his replacement, Radek Vitek, touched the ball.
“I’m fuming,” Parkinson said. “It was a clumsy, reckless challenge, preseason game. I’m not happy with it at all.”
Reynolds, who wasn’t at the match, tweeted that “Paul Mullin puts his last drop of blood into everything he does” and that the entire Wrexham community was pulling for a speedy recovery. McElhenney was at the match.
The second season of “Welcome to Wrexham” premieres Sept. 12 on FX.
It became clear in the docuseries’ first season that Mullin is Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s favorite player. Wrexham supporters who pack Racecourse Ground — the world’s oldest international soccer stadium — often serenade their team’s best player with the song “Super Paul Mullin.”
Parkinson had hoped his team would stay healthy through the tour, which ends Saturday night against Philadelphia Union II. Mullin had hoped to relax on a beach Wednesday while some of the other lads, as Parkinson calls his footballers, went to a San Diego Padres baseball game.
“To be honest, this wasn’t a holiday for us, it’s work,” Mullin said at a news conference on Monday. “We’ve come here to work as hard as we can and obviously fulfill any duties we had off the pitch, too. Now and again when we have a couple of moments to go and see the city, we’ve done that.”
“Welcome to Wrexham” is making an impact on this side of the pond. Mullin said he was recognized while walking on a street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where the tour opened a week ago with a 5-0 loss to Chelsea in front of 50,596 fans.
“A car window goes down and it’s: ‘Super Paul Mullin.’ That was the moment, ‘Ah, maybe what Rob and Ryan and everyone else has been telling us is true,'” Mullin said. “That was the first moment I thought, ‘Maybe they do know who we are around here then.'”
Mullin’s injury no doubt will be a topic of conversation at The Turf, a pub attached to the Racecourse Ground.
Three hours before Tuesday night’s match, fans lined up to buy $18 gin drinks from a pop-up bar modeled after The Turf while the pub’s real owner, Wayne Jones, was standing nearby, greeting fans and posing for pictures.
“Just having a few gins, meeting some fans. I’m having a ball, loving it,” said Jones, who added that team sponsor Aviation Gin — which Reynolds has an ownership stake in — arranged the pop-up bar for the tour.
“It’s crazy, right?” Jones said about the impact of the docuseries. “It’s a wonderful town, it’s a wonderful place, the people are incredible. The world is just getting to see what we’ve always known as locals. The world just seems to have taken to it. Long may it continue.”
Fans wearing Manchester United shirts outnumbered those wearing Wrexham kit, but Wrexham was loudly cheered when it scored twice in seven minutes to a take a 2-0 lead.
Man U fan Greg Mills, 38, of Escondido, California, who was wearing an old Wayne Rooney shirt, was surprised at the number of Wrexham fans.
He said “Welcome to Wrexham” is a “great show. It brings it more to America. … Wrexham wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for that show. No one had heard of Wrexham before the show.”