When Hollywood and golf collide: Gareth Bale to Wrexham AFC would be brilliant chaos

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Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are seemingly trying to convince Gareth Bale to join the newly-promoted club

Hollywood and golf don’t tend to mix all that often. Maybe there’s just something about a sport generally played by septuagenarians that fails to adequately quicken the pulse. Maybe it’s that the film industry writ large hasn’t yet developed the visual technology capable of properly conveying the necessary contrast between a player’s cap-covered forehead and the rest of their crimson face at the end of a four-day tournament. Maybe it’s just hard to find time for five-irons when you’ve got to get five Iron Man projects wrapped before the holidays.

When the two do come together, it is usually for comedic purposes - think Happy Gilmore, Caddy Shack, etc - and that’s quite a shame, really. Perhaps I might finally be tempted to watch an entry in the Fast and Furious franchise if Vin Diesel and his freakishly muscle-bound brethren were forced to try and run each other off the neon-soaked streets of Tokyo in golf buggies.

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But what if we went the other way instead? What if we took a finely-tuned Lamborghini and let it perform sweeping, smoky donuts all over a putting green? Well, it’s a pitch that Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are madly squirrelling away at as we speak.

McElhenney and Reynolds lift the National League trophy on Saturday McElhenney and Reynolds lift the National League trophy on Saturday
McElhenney and Reynolds lift the National League trophy on Saturday | Getty Images

Last week, in one of the great untold stories of the season, Wrexham got promoted. (Did that read as sarcastic? It was meant to read as sarcastic.) The Red Dragons will now return to the Football League for the first time in 15 years, and to mark the occasion, their devilishly handsome owners are on the hunt for a marquee signing. It would appear that they have set their heart on Gareth Bale. That’s less ‘marquee’, more ‘Millennium Dome’.

And y’know what? I’d love to see it happen.

When Bale announced his retirement from football in January, nobody was overly shocked. We should have been - here, after all, was a 33-year-old still in possession of an enviable level of physical fitness who had just captained Wales at a World Cup - but we weren’t. And the reason we weren’t was golf.

Bale adores the game; more than Real Madrid, but a little less than the rolling hills of Cymru... famously. His understated exit from a patchy stint in the MLS was made all the more understandable by his overt and passionate commitment to the links, and the common consensus seemed to be that he would while away his sudden retreat honing his back swing and navigating bunkers. It’s a retirement that amateur golfers the world over aspire to, he just so happened to be getting a 30-year headstart on many of them. In short, there was never really a question that he would even contemplate coming back to football. Then again, Wrexham currently radiate a lure that is all their own.

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It all started when the former Tottenham talisman shared a short video to Twitter congratulating the club on their promotion. Shortly after, McElhenney, ever the endearing chancer, responded: ‘Let’s play golf, where I totally won’t spend four hours trying to convince you to un-retire for one last magical season’. In negotiation terms, this is akin to me rattling a packet of treats in an effort to convince my dog to come in from the garden; she might not know the details, she can’t necessarily explain why it is so effective, but goddamn, it definitely gets her attention.

Bale, naturally, replied: ‘Depends what course...’. The carp, so to speak, was on the hook. What happens now, nobody knows. Maybe it all fizzles into a nothingness - a kind of brief flirtation that drives social media engagement for a while and compels daft scribes like me to write daft columns like this for a few days before it melts back into the ether. Or maybe, just maybe, the unthinkable does become a reality.

The appeal of seeing Bale lace up his boots for a crack at League Two is a perverse one. It’s similar to how Andre the Giant drew sold-out crowds all across the territories back in the day, or why Japanese Kaiju films remain such a lingering cultural touchstone. People love a mismatch; either we bear witness to a thorough pestling, or we get to revel in that most British of affections, a giant-killing.

The simple prospect of seeing a five-time Champions League winner leaving trails of smouldering rubble across the footballing hinterlands of Grimsby or Barrow or Crawley is too intriguing to resist. Bale is not the player he once was, granted, but even now, on the dark side of 30 and after months of inactivity, you would expect him to cause pure, unadulterated havoc. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a bit of controlled chaos?

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There is, of course, the romantic element too. The whole thing boasts shades of Michael Jordan in Space Jam; the reluctant megastar who has drifted from the game that made him, the unlikely bunch of misfits who have been catapulted into a situation they could never have foreseen. To say that Bale fell out of love with football would be going too far - only he will truly know whether that is the case or not - but certainly there is a feeling that towards the end of his career he never really doted on the sport as much as he could have.

Perhaps one last rodeo in a low stakes environment, where everything he does is lionised and the general mood around the place is one of unending buoyancy, could give him a curtain call more befitting of his towering reputaton. Let’s not forget, Wales could be playing in another European Championship next summer too...

That being said, all of this might be immaterial. Maybe Bale just won’t fancy it, and if he doesn’t, fair enough. He has, after all, earned his retirement, and all that it brings with it. If Reynolds and McElhenney are to convince him, however, a good place to start would be making sure to promise that he’ll never be too far away from a driving range.

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