From Langwarrin to Deepdale: The Bailey Wright Interview

Bailey Knight

Bailey Wright interviewed by the Almanac’s English football correspondent John Green

Bailey Wright is 21 and hails from Langwarrin on the south-eastern fringe of Melbourne. He plays for English soccer club Preston North End in League One, the third tier of the English Football Association competition. He made his debut for the club as a 19-year-old in 2011. Bailey survived a massive turnover of players and a change of managers and is a regular in the senior team. He is a defender and has played almost 80 games for the club.

I interviewed him at Springfields, Preston North End’s training venue.

First of all Bailey, how did you go with your teammates in the light of Australia’s 5-0 win in the Ashes series?

Well in the last Ashes I got a bit of stick, because we weren’t very good. So a few of them were quite confident. I had a little bet with one of them (John Mousinho) about burning his Chinos. If Australia lost, he got to burn a pair of my jeans. But if Australia won I’d get to burn a pair of his Chinos that I didn’t like. So obviously he was quite confident going in but I wasn’t so sure. I got to burn his Chinos and we made our own Ashes. Hopefully I won’t have to hand them over if the Aussies lose next time. So I’m the one giving them stick now.

Bailey, you played your junior soccer for Langwarrin, Mornington in 2005 and Dandenong Thunder in 2006. What attracted you to soccer in preference to all the other sports you could have played in Australia?

I was actually at Langwarrin for most of my junior career. I was literally just a couple of doors down from the Langwarrin Soccer Club and my dad played soccer when he was younger. He didn’t really influence me as to which sport I should choose. Soccer just ended up being the one for me. I played Aussie Rules for my school most of the time. I didn’t really play school soccer too much. The quality of our Aussie Rules team was better than the quality of our soccer team. I tried every sport, basketball as well, but soccer ended up being the one for me.

You came across to England as a 13-year-old in 2005 with your parents and your sister to try out for Celtic and Crewe Alexandra. What are your memories of that trip?

I was very young. But as a trip it was an unbelievable experience because I saw what the world of football was like over here. I suppose they were trials, but I don’t think I would have moved then because I was so young. But it was a good experience to see where I was at and what sort of things I needed to improve on just to get where I needed to be. I went home and changed a lot of things I did. It was a turning point of take it serious or don’t take it serious, and I decided to take it quite seriously, to get myself as fit as I could and hopefully progress.

You were selected for the Victorian under-15 team and then you were at the Victorian Institute of Sport in 2007 and 2008, followed by the Australian under-17 team in 2008 and 2009. Which countries did you play against as part of the Australian team?

We played in the Asian Cup and I got to play against countries like Uzbekistan, China and Japan. When we got a trip to America we got to play against America but also Brazil, an unbelievable experience. Some of the Brazilian players are now playing for clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool.

Have you run into any of your Australian teammates in England?

No, but quite a few of them are playing in the A-League or in Asia.

You came over to England for a second time in 2009 at the age of 17 when you had trials with Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End. How was the second trip different to the first?

Back in Australia I didn’t get an offer from the AIS. That pathway wasn’t going to be for me. I spoke to my parents about whether I was going to crack on and continue with football, or look to get a job and sort myself out and see what career path I wanted to take. But my dad said to me to go over, there’s two clubs to have trials with and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work then you can decide. I owe mum and dad a lot, because they’re the ones who paid for me to come over. The clubs put me up for accommodation, which was good. If it hadn’t worked out for me here, I think I would have just been working in Australia. I don’t think I would have bothered to  keep playing at a high level just because I think I would have had to make a living some other way. It was my last chance really, so I’m glad I came over. I’m really grateful things worked out for me at Preston.

When you trialled with Preston, were you confident you would be offered a position?

I had one training session here for about 45 minutes. I was originally going to be in Preston for a week on trial, but I got a call-up to the Australian under-17 team to go away to America, so I almost cancelled Preston’s trial. They said come down to the training ground on a Saturday morning. The youth team didn’t have a game that day. As I came in after training the manager took me aside and started speaking to me. He said before you leave come and speak to us in the office. We sat down in this very room – their office used to be here. They said we really like you. Before you meet with Blackburn or make any decision, come back and see us because we’re keen to have you.

The smile on my face was massive! I remember it. Me and Dad walked out and Dad couldn’t believe it. I went to Blackburn and had one or two training sessions and I did my ankle, so I don’t think I would have been offered anything there anyway. Then I gave Preston a call and we had a chat and they offered me a contract.  I didn’t need a manager or an agent because it was just a youth team scholarship. My clearance from Australia came through eventually, which was a bit of a hassle.

You made your senior debut against Coventry City. How did it feel going out to play for Preston for the first time?

I didn’t actually get on in that game. I was a substitute. It was the first time I travelled with the senior team. It was near the end of the season. But just to travel with the lads and have that experience was brilliant. I was still a scholar, but this was the experience of being a professional footballer. Staying in hotels, being on the bus, making coffees for everyone, just learning your trade.

How did you feel being on the bench against Coventry? Did you want to get out there or were you so nervous that you were happy to let it pass you by?

Oh yeah! I wanted to play and compete and see how I’d do, and there were people whose positions you were trying to take. It didn’t end up that way, because I didn’t manage to get out there, but I could have done myself well if I’d managed to get on.

Against which club did you make your playing debut ?

It was against Stockport County in the next season. It was the Capital One Cup. We won 5-0 so it was perfect. The lads alongside you made it quite comfortable, quite easy for me.

Did you find it hard to adjust to the pace of the game, playing against grown men?

Yes and no. It’s a game of football. It’s what you train to do and that’s all it is. You’re playing against better opposition and with better quality players. If you play with better quality players it makes your job even easier. You’re playing against strong men, so that makes quite a big difference.

As a professional footballer, what’s the hardest aspect of your life?

I’m big on my family and my family’s on the other side of the world. I’ve never used it as an excuse because I just get on with it. Thankfully with things like Skype I can keep in touch. I‘ve got lots of nieces and nephews as well as brothers and sisters. It’s what you have to get used to. It’s a big sacrifice to make but I’m lucky because they can come over here and I get to go home every year for three or four weeks. I’m sure there’s a lot more people who have it tougher than that.

What’s the most enjoyable aspect of being a professional footballer?

You get to come in here every day and have fun with your mates. In a way you’re a big kid all your life because you’re doing something you love and you get paid for it. It’s something as a kid you would love to do, something you dream of. So you get the chance to do it with the people you end up making friends with along the way.

The accolades are starting to come your way. You received the Best Young Player award for the club for the 2012/13 season and you recently signed a new contract. Professional footballers can make a very good living in England. Were you surprised by the money on offer here?

When you first come over here you’re a scholar, you learn your trade, you’re living on very low wages, but everything is covered for you. You’ve got to work hard to get that pro contract. The money you can make is plenty, better than most jobs I would have done back home. The career that you make out of it can be as good as what you want to make out of it. The higher you get, the more you earn.

What are your aspirations for Preston North End and your career in general?

Obviously I want to play at the highest level I can possibly play at. The highest level anyone can play at is for your country and the Champions League. That’s the target. I don’t know whether it will come true or not, but I’m going to work as hard as I can. Everyone reaches their level and you find out where you can get to. I want to be successful with Preston. This year we want to be promoted and get to the Championship where the club belongs. I’ll set my goals and kick on from there.

Finally, you said you played all sorts of sports back in Australia before you came here. Do you support an AFL club?

I do, the Tigers. We’ve had a rough few years but we did better last year. My brother keeps me in the loop. I see them on the odd occasion here on the TV now and then. I haven’t been to a game for a good few years now. I need to go to one next time I’m home.

Who’s your favourite Richmond player?

I like Deledio. He’s been around a while now. I used to love Richo back in the day.

Thanks Bailey. Best of luck for the game against Wolves on Saturday and for national honours with Australia in the future.

Thank you.

 

Post script: The dramatic burning of John Mousinho’s Chinos can be seen on the Youtube clip The Ashes: England’s John Mousinho loses bet with Australia’s Bailey Wright at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol283tNWaTQ .

Article from the Lancashire Evening Post about the chino ‘Ashes’ : http://www.lep.co.uk/sport/national-football/bailey-s-getting-his-own-back-1-6314715

Preston’s media executive Stephen Watson, who arranged the interview for me and sat in with us, is originally from Scotland and spent time living and working in Melbourne. He is a Cats supporter.

 

Comments

  1. Wonderful stuff (again). Thanks John.
    I was going to title the piece “Talented Young Australian Escapes to English Soccer to Avoid Tiger Trauma” but Bailey seems like such a genuine and talented young man.
    It was the blue and gold colours finally sold me JG.
    I know it is the away strip but I will still be following the fortunes of Bailey and the “Lilywhites” closely for the rest of the season.
    Great that they are doing so well this season when you are there. Today’s Wolves game looks like a ‘must win’. Third V Fourth and they are 2 points and goal difference ahead of us. The away record is better than at home this season. Beating Wolves at Molineaux (in blue and gold strip) would be brilliant. Will you be there?

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Enjoyable read again John although , Baileys favorite player is a worry I hope , Bailey is better in big games than , Deledio ! Preston supporters might burn him if he gets ,4 goals scored on him in a final . Thanks John

  3. Troy Hancox says:

    Being a Wolverhampton & Richmond Supporter. I am also a massive Delido fan….. sorry mate. FROM OUT OF DARKNESS COMETH LIGHT!!!

    MIGHTY WOLVES FROM THE BLACK COUNTRY……. 2 zip over the POSH.
    Try Wolves… Enjoy 3rd tier… Thew posh aren’t going anywhere soon!

    WOLVES ARE WE~!

  4. Troy Hancox says:

    2 nil

  5. Troy Hancox says:

    oh…….. and a double…………

    yellow n black…

    OLD GOLD N BLACK

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