IT’S FAIR DINKUM NOW FOR BAI­LEY

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

BAI­LEY WRIGHT spent this sum­mer in Brazil as part of Aus­tralia’s 23-man World Cup squad, bask­ing in the glory of be­com­ing the first Preston player since Sir Tom Fin­ney to make it to the fi­nals.

Yet had it not been for a chance trial with Preston five-and-a-half years ago, the burly de­fender re­veals he could still have been slav­ing away at his dad’s pit con­struc­tion company Down Un­der.

Wright’s route to the top be­gan in Langwarrin – an hour’s drive south from Mel­bourne – known more for its Aussie rules foot­ball than the Euro­pean equiv­a­lent.

In­deed, a ca­reer in AFL had been mooted for the tal­ented Wright.

But soc­cer was Wright’s first love and he spent his for­ma­tive years play­ing for lo­cal sides be­fore earn­ing se­lec­tion for the Vic­to­rian In­sti­tute of Sport.

Jour­ney

Then, over the fes­tive pe­riod in 2008,Wright vis­ited Eng­land with the Aus­tralia U17s and the cen­tre-back got his first big chance – a day’s train­ing with Preston.

One ses­sion was all it took for then youth boss Jamie Hoy­land to gift the teenager a route out of the daily grind back home.

“Ev­ery­one who has gone on to be­come a pro foot­baller has had a tough jour­ney,” said Wright.

“I was born in Langwarrin, which is big on Aussie rules, and my soc­cer in­volved a lot of trav­el­ling, mainly for my fam­ily it has to be said.

“With­out them I wouldn’t have made it, and there were times when I almost stopped and packed it in. I was go­ing to work for my old man and his pit con­struc­tion company. “Then around Christ­mas 2008 I went over to Eng­land with Aus­tralia U17s and I got a trial with Black­burn Rovers, but be­fore that I went to Preston.

“Jamie Hoy­land of­fered me a deal after one train­ing ses­sion and the rest is his­tory.

“Some­times when I go home in the sum­mer I help my dad, shift­ing sand­bags up and down hills and stuff like that, and he says ‘If you stop work­ing hard this is what you’ll, be back do­ing’. It’s cer­tainly mo­ti­va­tion!”

The 22-year-old’s im­pres­sive per­for­mances in League One were quickly noted by Soc­ceroos boss Ange Postecoglou, who gave Wright his de­but on Mon­day against Saudi Ara­bia.

Shocked

It was a goalscor­ing bow at that, as Aus­tralia tri­umphed 3-2 at Ful­ham’s Craven Cot­tage, and Wright is des­per­ate to make up for lost time after fail­ing to get off the bench in Brazil.

“When I was first told I was in the squad I was shocked and although I didn’t play out there, be­ing in and around the tour­na­ment was the next best thing,” added Wright, who be­came the first Preston player since Fin­ney in 1958 to go to a World Cup.

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence that I learned a lot from.

“It re­ally didn’t hit me at first. I was buzzing but it didn’t sink in un­til the World Cup be­gan and Brazil played their first game.

“It’s still some­thing I’ll be brag­ging to the grand­chil­dren about. It’s an in­de­scrib­able ex­pe­ri­ence that I’ll never for­get.

“I was just happy to fi­nally make my de­but. You’re al­ways pleased to get a chance to play be­cause sit­ting on the bench is frus­trat­ing. To score was an added bonus.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

IM­PRES­SIVE: Bai­ley Wright, right, and Joe Gar­ner cel­e­brate after Paul Gal­lagher, hid­den, scores the first goal for Preston against Rother­ham

SOC­CEROO: Wright in his Aus­tralia kit

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