Exclusive PNE column by Bailey Wright
It was six years ago this week that I made my first-team debut '¨for Preston North End against Stockport.
There were a few injuries in defence at the time and we had the game at Edgeley Park in what was the Carling Cup.
At the time, David Unsworth was the first-team coach – he had coached the youths when I first came to the club – while Darren Ferguson was the manager.
Darren saw something he liked and gave me that opportunity.
I think it was a choice of Danny Devine or myself for a place in defence that night and luckily I get the nod.
That summer I had been away for pre-season training with the squad, which had been a great experience.
By then I had been at the club for a year, although it took a while for my clearance to come through.
To be in and around a first-team environment for a good period of time was good for me and got me ready for when the call came.
I had just turned 18 at the time and had bushy Aussie hair and chubby cheeks – I still have the chubby cheeks!
At home I’ve got my shirt from that night framed and a picture from the game.
Before the match I had done a bit of research on which players I could be facing. I got a bit nervous after that because Stockport had some experienced lads.
As it was, we ran out comfortable 5-0 winners and I got a good taste of first-team football.
That night, Doyle Middleton came on as a substitute and in doing so, became the youngest ever player for Preston – I think he was only 16 at the time.
That record has since been broken.
I played in the next round of the Carling Cup against Bradford City.
It was land of the giants that night with most of the Bradford lads being huge.
I came on as a substitute at half-time after Sean St Ledger got an injury.
After that, I had a long wait to play in the first team again. Phil Brown had taken over as boss from Ferguson by the time I made my next appearance.
Six years on, I have played 187 games for Preston and I’m looking forward to many more.
Looking back at my debut, there are not many people still here from then.
There are no players from that period and on the staff, there is only Matt Jackson and John Sumner left.
Back to the present day, and it was good to get the win against Hartlepool in the cup.
We persisted through the 93 minutes and finally got the winner through Eoin Doyle.
Although they might be a League Two club, Hartlepool were a decent side.
They played some good football and had some decent players in the team. Hartlepool made it tough for us but we got there in the end and deservedly so.
We needed that win as the performance we had put in at Reading last Saturday was nowhere near the standards we set for each other and for ourselves.
I thought we were much better in midweek and could have scored more goals than we did. The goal we did score came from defending a free-kick in our own box.
It came through to Anders Lindegaard who had the speed of thought to throw the ball out to Chris Humphrey.
Chris showed good pace to go down the wing and put over a good ball which Doyler put away.
At least we avoided going into extra time.
On Wednesday night, there were games which went to extra time and penalties.
It was nearly 10.30pm when a couple of them finished, which is not great when you are playing again on Saturday.
We have now got two home league games against Fulham and Derby – both of which will be very tough.
Every game in this league is going to be difficult, it is a very strong division this year.
That is not just because of the size of the clubs which have come down, but other teams have improved.
The finances of the league have improved and football is getting stronger – as are we.
We are looking forward to playing against some of the big teams.
On the international front, I have a few games coming up for Australia.
We have reached the second stage of our World Cup qualifying campaign and have games against United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Iraq, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
In September we have got Iraq at home and then go to the UAE.
The schedule is two games in September, two in October and one in November.
Then there are more in the international breaks later in the season.
I doubt that when it comes to playing the away game against Iraq, we will play it in Iraq because of the safety issues – it might be that we play at a neutral venue.
It is a busy schedule but I wouldn’t change anything.