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WellRed meets: Bailey Wright

Australian international and City captain Bailey Wright is set to line up against the side who game him his opportunity in English football.

Wright, 25, spent seven-and-a-half years at Deepdale, joining the Preston North End setup at the age of 16 and he had to quickly adjust from living in Melbourne to residing in the north of England.

By January 2016, Wright moved south to BS3, became City skipper within six months and has helped Socceroos qualify for their fourth consecutive World Cup.

He is rightly on a high and speaks to WellRed about his achievement and the prospect of facing his old club again.

You played in both matches against Honduras in the recent play-off final. How tough were the games?

"I think over the two legs were by far the best team and in the end it was quite comfortable. There was a lot of talk about the away game (the first leg), with Honduras being one of the toughest places to go and get a result.

"We played really well and we were unlucky not to win the game. We were high on confidence coming back to Australia, with home advantage in a fantastic, historic stadium in Sydney. From the moment the game kicked off, we were all feeling like it was right for us.

"It was brilliant to be able to celebrate with all the players and staff who have been on this journey, as well as our families."

The World Cup draw takes place on December 1st. You could get England, or Hordur Magnusson’s Iceland, would you fancy that?

"I’m looking forward to the draw. For many of us that play in England, there’s always that link given the possibility we could draw them; for the likes of Iceland – it would be great to face a teammate in a World Cup.

"I don’t care who we get in our group. If it’s a Brazil, Argentina or Germany; we’ll be ready for it. The World Cup is about taking on the best countries so we shouldn’t shy away from it.

"Throughout our qualifying campaign we’ve had a structure, culture and identity for our game. Sometimes we’ve been criticised but I feel we’re strong and ready for whoever, even if they’re one of the top five or ten countries in the world."

It’s now four successive World Cups for Australia. Tell us about growing up in Australia and your love for football.

"I lived about an hour from Melbourne, which was a great area to grow up. There are great sporting teams out there; obviously the AFL is huge but I also had a good local soccer club down the road. There wasn’t much grass but as long as you had goals and a ball you were happy. My dad was my coach as a youngster and then I had various coaches under great setups.

"I toured England with Victoria Institute of Sport, which was incredible. We played a lot of games against big teams and I wondered if I would ever come back to this country again. I thought playing in England was awesome, seeing football at its best and there were great young players. Some lads got trials off the back of it and it was an incredible experience. Watching the game I thought it would be incredible to do that but I was never worried if it didn’t work out.

"I was working with my old man before I moved over here. I left school, which wasn’t really for me, and I knew I would either go into football or a skilled trade such as a plumber, electrician or concreter. Of course I wanted to be a footballer but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if it hadn’t worked out. I was happy being committed to doing whatever I was doing."

It’s great that you’re back from suspension to face your old club Preston North End tonight. That must have been a hammer blow for you, to miss two key games.

"Yes, it certainly wasn’t ideal. However, I’m very grateful for the support I received from the rest of the squad, from the management staff, from the club as a whole and the supporters who got in touch after the ban was announced. I don’t think it was fair but what’s done is done and I’m more focused on the future now."

What do you remember about your time with tonight’s opponents Preston?

"I have great memories from my time at Preston: from the moment I had my trial with the club I felt very welcome there, to the moment I actually signed and moved in. I was looked after when I moved and it was made easy to settle in. There were great people at the club and I had great experiences making my way through the youth team, through the reserves and into the first team.

"I had success at Wembley (League One play-off final), which is something I will always remember.

"I wasn’t allowed to play for three months because I was waiting on clearance, so it was a period of not knowing if I would stay in England or have to go back to Australia. I loved it in Australia but I wanted to stay in England. Fortunately my clearance came through and I was able to stay and play my football.

"Preston wanted to sign me after one training session I think because I reminded Jamie Hoyland (youth team coach 2006-2012) of himself as a young player. I was lucky but that’s football."

Read the full interview in the Bristol City v Preston North End programme. Only £3.

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