Back to PNE business for Socceroo Bailey

Bailey Wright tussles with Notts County goalkeeper Roy Carroll on the opening day of the season

Bailey Wright tussles with Notts County goalkeeper Roy Carroll on the opening day of the season

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The irony of his surroundings was not lost on Preston defender Bailey Wright as he conducted a busy round of media interviews in the wake of this week’s goalscoring debut for Australia.

As Wright answered questions in the Springfields press room, a grin spread across his face when it was pointed out he was by far the longest-serving current PNE player.

“It was in this exact room where I got offered my first contract,” said Wright.

“The youth-team staff – Dean Ramsdale, Nick Harrison and Jamie Hoyland – had their office here, the place was laid out in a different way back then.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster since then, with a few different managers and lots of different players coming and going.

“This is my sixth season with Preston and plenty has happened in that time.”

Plenty indeed. Wright became a full Aussie international on Monday night when he played for the Socceroos against Saudi Arabia at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground.

That came on the back of 115 appearances for North End, most of them since the spring of 2012 when he became a regular in the first-team squad.

It was a big enough moment for Wright just to be making his full international debut.

But to score 77 minutes into it was the stuff dreams are made of, a tale to tell the kids and grandchildren about in years to come

Wright said: “It was a dream come true to play for Australia and nicking a goal topped things off nicely.

“It has been a long wait, with going to the World Cup and not playing.

“But football is a game where you have to be patient and keep plugging away for a chance.

“I would like to think I gave it my best shot and I think I did pretty well.

“Obviously my family in Australia couldn’t get over to London for the game but my girlfriend was there and a few other people I knew.

“It has been a year of contrasting emotions for me.

“There was the disappointment of us not getting promoted, then going to the World Cup and now my international debut.

“What would top things off nicely would be Preston getting promoted to the Championship this season.”

Wright’s goal for the Socceroos was a close-range strike after his initial header at a corner had been blocked.

Finding the back of the net is not a habit he has been particularly used to, with just seven to his name in PNE colours.

“I closed my eyes and swung my left leg at it,” said the 22-year-old.

“Before that I had touched it with one of the hairs on my head but luckily the ball came back.

“I found myself in the right place at the right time and fortunately for me the shot went into the net.

“In my career I haven’t scored that many, I’ve not scored this season for Preston.

“My main job is to defend and help try and keep clean sheets but it is nice to contribute at the other end too.”

Wright had found himself being prematurely congratulated on his Aussie debut five days before he actually made it.

He was an unused substitute against Belgium in Liege a week last Thursday.

But it was wrongly reported that the Melbourne boy had come on, when it fact it had been Swindon’s Brad Smith.

“There was a bit of confusion at the Belgium game,” said Wright.

“I switched my phone on after the game and there were loads of messages on Twitter congratulating me on my 
debut.

“I thought, ‘I’ve not gone on, what’s happening here?’ – it seems that Sky Sports made a bit of a mistake and people had seen that.

“Probably when I was scored on Monday night, people thought it was another mistake!

“Having not played in Belgium, I got a few days of training under my belt in London and then was fortunate to get picked to play against Saudi Arabia.”

Wright has now got his Preston head on in preparation for the trip to the Bescot Stadium to take on Walsall (3pm).

International heroics or not, he is not guaranteed to start in the West Midlands. For the last League One game against Sheffield United a fortnight ago, Wright was left on the bench – Tom Clarke and Jack King got the nod in the centre of defence.

However, one of the reasons for Wright’s benching was to rest a groin injury which has been nagging away at him since the early weeks of the campaign.

He said: “I want to get my place back but there is a lot of competition for places, which keeps you on your toes.

“If the shirt is taken off you, there is always someone waiting to pounce on it. It is difficult to get into this team but a great environment to be in.

“We will be in for a tough game at Walsall – the games between us have often been close and they are a decent side.

“Last season we did very well down there, winning 3-0.

“If you are not on top of your game in this division, teams can easily pinch points off you.

“We want to push on from where we are and get a good run going.”