PRESTON North End’s Australian defender Bailey Wright is flourishing under manager Simon Grayson and is eyeing both a spot in the Socceroos and promotion to the Championship.
Wright’s club is currently fourth in League One with 26 points after 14 rounds. The Lilywhites have lost just two games this season, winning seven and drawing five, and the 21-year old has started in every match.
“Things have gone pretty well to be fair,” he said. “We started the season well and were undefeated for quite a bit.
"We had a bad patch the other week but we’re back to it this week and in a good position at the minute. I’ve been happy with how I’ve been playing.
"Obviously I'm still learning with every game I’m playing and looking to get better.”
Wright, who moved to Deepdale in 2009 from the Victorian Institute of Sport and came through the club’s Under-18 and Reserve teams, had a successful 2012-2013 season making 37 appearances and scoring two goals. He also took out the Preston’s young player of the year award.
“It’s been the best season I’ve had [in the UK] so far that’s for sure,” he said. “We finished the season well and I played a lot more games than I really thought I would through pre-season.
"Personally, it was a good year. But I think so far this year has been better for me, I’ve played better, the team’s played better and we’re in a better position.”
Despite being unwanted by previous Lilywhites boss Graham Westley, the left-sided stopper signed a new two-year deal in May and is enjoying life under Grayson.
“I’m loving it at the minute to be honest,” he said. “Confidence is high, which is a quite a big factor for a footballer. I’m enjoying it and having a lot of confidence and playing football, nothing beats it.
"He’s [Grayson] shown trust in me and helped me develop. All the staff have been really good. Through the pre-season I was quite unsure what was going on. I’m very happy to have been able to stay at the club.”
Able to play at left back or in central defence, more recently Wright has featured on the left side of a three-man backline.
“I actually quite enjoy the three because you get a bit more time on the ball I suppose, you can get involved in playing a bit more and things like that,” he said.
“We’ve had a bit joy from it to be honest. It’s working for us.”
Wright’s form at Preston has caught the eye back home and FFA has been in touch. The Langwarrin junior last represented the Joeys in 2009 and would relish the chance to wear the green and gold again.
“I’ve had a quite a few emails and stuff, just keeping in touch,” he said. “They let me know what their plans are with the national team - obviously I’ve haven’t had a call up or anything, but they’ve kept me posted.
"They’re always asking how I’m going over here. It’s good, it’s more than what it used to be anyway.
“The Socceroos are something I’d love to be a part of. While the last few of results haven’t been great, it just makes you itching to be out there.
"You love to play in games like that to see if you can make a difference. I’ve been watching it closely and obviously with Ange Postecoglou coming in, he’s got a great reputation in the last few years in the A-League.
"Hopefully he’s the right man for the job.”
The interest from FFA is pushing Wright to continue to excel for his club.
“It gives you an added confidence and I suppose an added goal for myself,” he said. “I’d love nothing more to be able to part of the squad for the World Cup.”
For now the focus is on his duties with Preston with the club currently six points off an automatic promotion place.
“We’ve had a few draws this season and we’ve been working on turning those draws into wins,” he said.
“That’s the aim, and to keep trying to climb that table. Promotion is what the whole club expects. The fans have got that expectation on us as players, and we’ve got that expectation ourselves.”