As Paul Mullin, via a message from Rob McElhenney, ended his rare scoring drought

Rob McElhenney takes seriously the duty of care he has as co-owner of Wrexham.

When Phil Parkinson was still coming to terms with what remains the nadir of the club’s return to the EFL after a 15-year exile outside the league, the co-owner contacted his manager moments after September’s 5-0 thrashing of Stockport County via SMS.

Hollywood actor and writer McElhenney did something similar with Paul Mullin during the latter’s recent eight-game goalless streak – the striker’s most successful spell in nearly five years.

The Liverpudlian’s balanced response was no surprise. “I feel pretty good,” McElhenney said, “it’s just a matter of time.”

Mullin’s inner conviction that reassured his American boss is not an act. Talk to anyone close to the player and they will wax lyrical about how adamant he was that the scoring tide would soon turn for him, even as Wrexham lost ground in the League Two promotion race.

It was not possible to review old clips of him scoring for fun, as many players do during these goalless streaks. Nor did Mullin worry about the chances that he might have escaped. He simply told anyone who asked, including McElhenney, that he would go to the net next.

That firm belief explains why, after ending a 649-minute wait for a goal with an injury-time equalizer from the penalty spot to secure a point away to Forest Green Rovers last Tuesday, Mullin celebrated his sixth hat-trick in fewer than three seasons with the North Wales club just four days later.

Ending that unwanted rush was not only a lesson in maintaining self-confidence, but also in the need for timely reminders of what a player does best. Mullin spent the day before the 1-1 draw with Forest Green taking part in an individual shooting drill which, to onlookers, seemed no more scientific than simply needing to hit the ball as hard as possible.

Undergoing this extra strain when still plagued by a back injury requiring a pain-killing injection earlier this week outlined his determination to end what had become an unprecedented drought – in recent memory, at least – .


Mullin scores from the penalty spot against Forest Green Rovers (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Last season, for example, the longest Mullin went without finding the net was two games (which happened three times). The year before – his first for Wrexham – there had been a five-game gap between goals around Christmas, but the team had still won on three of those five occasions, so the focus was largely on somewhere else.

This time, the 29-year-old’s goals temporarily drying up coincided with a disappointing run of results: five of those eight games were lost, with just two wins, and without his dramatic 93rd-minute equalizer, Forest Green would have beaten even Wrexham. .

It’s no surprise that a priority for the coaching staff in February was to get their talisman back to his best instincts. Not just in terms of scoring goals, but also running in behind defenses which is so crucial to the way Wrexham play.

These had become increasingly less frequent, meaning the chances of the ball sticking forward to allow the midfielders and defenders to advance en masse also took a hit. The result was a team that looked as disjointed as the results suggested, especially away from home.

Indicates individual shooting exercise after training.

It lasted just 10 minutes, with assistant manager Steve Parkin on hand throughout, urging the striker to get his foot on the ball. Some shots went past the goalkeeper into the top corner. Others went harmlessly far from the target. But it didn’t matter. Instead, to those watching from the sidelines, the intention seemed simply to remind Mullin how much power he packs into his boots.

Whether this played a part in the return to goal the following evening we will never know, but there was a brutal ferocity to his penalty – and an earlier shot that whistled just over the bar – that had been missing when facing MK Dons and Gillingham in the previous eight days.

The second goal of Saturday’s hat-trick in the 4-0 home win against Accrington was similar. Mullin hit his shot from 25 yards with such conviction that goalkeeper Radek Vitek had no chance.

Also evident were all the extras that Mullin has made such an important cog in Wrexham’s attacking machine, including a darting run behind the opposition defense which led to the striker setting up Elliot Lee’s goal which completed the scoring just before the interval.

Their main man was back.


This weekend’s visit to Morecambe will see Mullin on familiar ground.

He spent three years there as a youth, following his release by Huddersfield Town in 2014 at the age of 19 without making a senior appearance.

Mullin would never have become rich in Morecambe. His first contract was worth just £200 a week. But those three seasons brought valuable foundations. He has also scored 25 goals in 122 league appearances, more than half of which came from the bench. Mullin felt he was worthy of a starting role.

At the time, as one of many members of the Morecambe team – managed by Jim Bentley – living along the Lancashire coast in Liverpool, Mullin regularly car-shared during training. Groups of four would take turns driving.

For those who took part in those 150-mile round trips, an abiding memory is the way the young forward attempted to channel that disappointment at not being positively selected. Where some might have blamed the coach – to this day Mullin credits Bentley as a good influence on his career – he instead did everything he could to try and force his way into the team.


Mullin’s recent drought was his longest with Wrexham (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

In his spare time he did running sessions on the city beach, as well as doing grueling weight work to gain mass. He wanted to be more attuned to the physically imposing front man role required by the Bentley system.

In time, Mullin realized his mistake. His game had always been based on the use of skill and speed, but now, with the extra muscles he had built up, he felt heavy. I learned a lesson about the need to stay true to your beliefs.

This will no doubt have helped him overcome not only his recent barren run in front of goal, but also Wrexham’s signing of fellow striker Jack Marriott on deadline day early last month.

The arrival of Marriott, who was playing in the second division Championship just two years ago and has more than 100 career appearances in that division, was touted as a means of reinvigorating an attack which, even taking into account the fact that Mullin had achieved double figures for the season in mid-January, he has largely struggled to score goals since the club’s return to the EFL. But, as has since been made clear, with one of the two replacing the other off the bench in six of Marriott’s eight appearances, the newcomer is effectively direct competition for Mullin.

Mullin had recently laid down the law. He has only started on the bench once in more than 100 league appearances for Wrexham – and even then that was on his return from a collapsed lung and four broken ribs on last summer’s American tour. Of course this would fall apart.

But it also triggered the well-honed trait of wanting to prove people wrong. This has burned inside him since he was released from his beloved Liverpool at 16. This desire perhaps explains why Mullin was always present at training despite the discomfort of that back problem. This problem led the medical team to take advantage of a rare empty Tuesday this week to administer that pain-relieving shot.

Those who know Mullin well will all say the same thing: what you see is what you get from someone who still lives just around the corner from his childhood home in Litherland, a neighborhood north of Liverpool. Life with partner Mollie and son Albi is so stable that not even serious interest from Saudi Arabia’s second division last summer could tempt him. Family and friends have long realized the futility of trying to contact Mullin after 9pm, knowing full well that by then he would either be asleep, rested for the next day’s training or match, or not it would be far away.

Even McElhenney, who once claimed that only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were more famous as footballers in the United States than his number 10 thanks to the Emmy Award-winning documentary series Welcome To Wrexham, admits: “Every now and then, I want to get him for tell me how big it is. But it’s always the same thing (from Mullin): ‘I just go on shift, do my job and go back to my family.’ Every week!”


Mullin has been a key star for Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

This balanced attitude, however, once again helps explain how Mullin has managed to overcome his recent dry spell in front of goal.

It was the longest period since he made 16 league and cup appearances without scoring for Tranmere Rovers – after three months as an unused substitute or out of the matchday squad – at the end of the 2018-19 League Two season and the start of the next one. campaign in League One.

She also has the sense of perspective that four-year-old Albi’s autism diagnosis has brought. That said, there are those in and around the dressing room who insist the striker “looked six inches taller” after that penalty save against Forest Green, suggesting there was a great sense of relief when the ball found the net .

So what time? Firstly, he will be keen to continue a remarkable goalscoring record against Morecambe, having scored eight times against them in the last three meetings with Cambridge United and now Wrexham.

Then, assuming all goes well after this week’s back blow, there are the twin goals of a second consecutive promotion and joining an exclusive club of Wrexham strikers to reach 100 goals. Mullin is eighth on the all-time scoring list, five shy of triple digits in 129 appearances.

Should they go on and reach that milestone this season, Wrexham are likely to celebrate those first consecutive promotions and a return to the Third Division for the first time since 2004-05.

It would be a fitting end to an eventful year for their talisman on the pitch.

(Top photo: Getty Images)