PNE star Bailey’s World tour

Bailey Wright in action for Australia against England
Bailey Wright in action for Australia against England
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Preston defender Bailey Wright hopes to take another step closer to the World Cup when Australia face Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on Friday.

The qualifying clash will spark good memories for Wright, Saudi Arabia having been the opponents when he made his Socceroos debut two years ago.

Wright scored that night in a 3-2 victory at Fulham’s Craven Cottage – that was a friendly, with this latest clash in Jeddah having much more significance.

At stake are three valuable points in the quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Reflecting on his national debut, Wright said: “It seems quite a while back now.

“My debut for Australia is always something I will remember, to score and win was pretty special.

“To be able to play against Saudi Arabia again, this time on their turf, can hopefully be quite memorable.”

Wright missed September’s internationals with a toe injury sustained early in the season with North End.

He returned to action in the Lilywhites 3-2 victory over Bournemouth and has stayed in the team since.

Said Wright: “I’m feeling much better, 100% fit this time.

“It was disappointing to miss out on the two games last time but the boys got some great results.

“We have got to make sure we do the same this time.

“Playing for my country is a big thing for me.

“Each time I join up with the squad, I get that bit more experience and feel more comfortable.

“I aim to improve with every game I play.”

Wright and his Australia team-mates are in the second phase of their World Cup qualifying campaign, having topped their first group.

After playing against Saudi, they fly back Down Under to face Japan in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Wright then heads back to England to join in with PNE’s preparations for the visit to Brighton a week on Saturday.

Should Australia negotiate the qualification stages and book a slot in Russia, it would be a second experience of the World Cup for Wright – if selected.

He went to Brazil in 2014 as an uncapped player but did not get further than the bench.

It was an experience Wright thoroughly enjoyed.

“When I look back at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and compare it to where I am now, I feel I have grown a lot as a player and person,” said Wright.

“Going to the World Cup last time made me hungry to want to go again.

“Although I didn’t play in 2014, the experience of just being there was brilliant.

“I learned a lot from the training and being part of the squad.”

Another North End player who is away on international duty is Alan Browne.

The midfielder is with the Republic of Ireland Under-21s squad for Friday’s game with Serbia in Waterford.

It is the final qualification group game for the European Championships, with the ROI unable to qualify.

With Browne turning 22 next April, he is coming to the end of his time with the Under-21s.

He will be looking to kick on in an attempt to force his 
way into Martin O’Neill’s senior squad.