Wright’s exorcised PNE ghosts

PNE defender Bailey Wright

PNE defender Bailey Wright

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Preston North End’s promotion was just the tonic to exorcise Bailey Wright’s relegation ghosts.

Wright was the only surviving member of PNE’s last Championship squad, among the players on who lined up on that magical day at Wembley last month.

The centre-back was aged 18 and made just four appearances in the 2010/11 relegation season but the memories still linger in his mind.

And that is why the 4-0 Wembley win is all the sweeter for the 22-year-old.

He said: “Promotion was sweet for me because I was a young lad here when 
Preston were relegated four years ago.

“I remember how horrible that felt.”

The then boss Phil Brown could not stop North End slipping to the third tier of English football and was eventually replaced by Graham Westley.

But Westley’s tenure was short-lived and in January 2013, Grayson arrived to revive PNE’s fortunes.

Just over two years since his arriva,l Grayson masterminded PNE’s first ever play-off success after nine previous failures.

And Wright is honoured to have his name carved in North End’s history books as one of the play-off ‘hex-busters’.

He said: “It has taken a little while to get back. There have been a few ups and downs along the way.

“To be part of the team which ended Preston’s play-off hoodoo, and to do it at Wembley, was very special.”

Now Wright is hoping loan striker Jermaine Beckford stays with Preston next season to continue his partnership with last season’s top scorer Joe Garner.

Beckford was released by Bolton at the end of the season and he is yet to decide where he will play next season.

Wright paid tribute to the duo for the part they played in steering North End back to the Championship – and for making the defence’s job a lot easier.

He said: “Having Beckford and Garner in your team is a comfort to the back four.

“We knew that if we kept a clean sheet, the lads would do the business at the other end of the pitch.

“Jermaine and Joe both have that white-line fever – once they cross the white line on the pitch, they are totally switched on and focused on what they need to do.”

The defender says the fact North End will be competing in the Championship next term is yet to hit home and he is relishing visiting some new grounds.

“The Championship is a strong division to go into,” said the Aussie stopper.

“Last Sunday, we were busy celebrating and didn’t really give much thought to who we would be facing.

“But a few of us had a chat later and went through some of the teams we would be playing and the grounds we’d be visiting.

“It will all seem a bit more real when the fixtures come out.”

Wright is set to team up with the Australia squad on Sunday as they prepare for their World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan – a former Soviet republic in Central Asia.