The Wright Stuff: Bailey’s battle to help get Sunderland up

BAILEY WRIGHT watched every episode of Sunderland Til I Die on Netflix - and desperately wished for a happier ending for the sake of those passionate fans.

The 28-year-old Australian central defender and Sport Careers Agency client is now embroiled in the latest quest to chase the darkness away from the Stadium of Light.

Lee Johnson's Black Cats are deep in the fight for a play-off slot as we reach the business end of the English League One season.

Vice-skipper Wright is a key figure in trying to bring the good times back and he revealed: "I watched every episode of Sunderland Till I Die and there is no question it has created fans all over the world.

"In a way it's heartbreaking to watch it because you know how it ends and you see how much the club means to people. You just want success for them.

"It's a brilliant documentary and it shows the potential of the club, it just shows you as a player what you could bring to the place by just winning something.

"These are proper, passionate, honest football people and I just want to see them with smiles on their faces."

Sunderland have the least defeats in League One but 12 draws in their 31 games means Peterborough are in pole position for the title with the Black Cats now surging up to fourth after Tuesday night's 1-0 win over Swindon Town.

Johnson's side are the giants of the division, a true Premier League club fallen on hard times.

There is no question playing games without their vociferous support behind them during the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt them more than most.

Bailey reflected: "You adjust to life without the fans but if I am honest it's crap on the field at times.

"You miss the buzz of winning for them, the buzz of a goal or winning a tackle.

"There's no reaction like the one we are used to at Sunderland with the backing we get.

"In League One that was an advantage for us, the passion we have behind us, and that's just not there now.

"The beauty of football, though, is that the lows lead to highs somewhere down the line and that's what we are trying to bring back to the Sunderland fans."

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Bailey knew from the first day he walked in the door at Sunderland that he had arrived at one of English football's signature clubs.

The 24-times capped Aussie defender has made himself a fans' favourite since and is a man on a mission for both club and country.

He stressed: "I was on loan at the club at first and from Day One you come in here and see the infrastructure and it's a different calibre.

"This is not a League One club but that's where we play our football right now and we have to find a way out.

"I see the potential here and I don't want to miss out on getting Sunderland back to the big time.

"I want to help get this club back to the Championship and then I feel we have no limits.

"I'm 28 now and I feel I am coming to my peak. I love my football here.

"The dream of getting to the World Cup in Qatar and being in the Australian squad is also huge for me.

"We haven't played for over a year now because of COVID-19 and we are hopeful the games we have scheduled later in March will go ahead.

"I want to give the coach the biggest headache possible by being in the right sort of form at Sunderland.

"There is real competition for places at centre-half for my nation but that's the way it should be."

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Away from the field Bailey is currently in the throes of an MSc in Sports Directorship at the University of Salford.

His plans for this career after he hangs up his boots have been inspired by watching people within the game take different paths, whether that be coaching or as a General Manager or Sporting Director.

Bailey reasoned: "I look at managers like Roy Hodgson and I wonder what is driving him to still be a manager at the age of 73 in the Premiership at Crystal Palace.

"He doesn't need the money now but he has this inner drive and love and passion for the game to keep going.

"Then you look at someone like Steven Gerrard at Rangers who made that quick transition to coaching then managing following that short spell in Los Angeles after Liverpool.

"Their journeys fascinate me and I look at people like that and think about them.

They inspire me in different ways in my learning."

Bailey successfully juggles his time between football, family and his studies and has found his MSc journey a rewarding one.

His natural thirst for knowledge and improvement ON the field translates to helping him in his preparation for his eventual life without the thrill of kicking a ball for living.

That's a long way off for now but he said: "On the course we have done personal leadership, vision documents, neuro-science.

"We have looked at how to lead and manage people, action plans and now we are trying to understand how high-performance organisations are run.

"We are doing an audit at the moment of Football Australia and looking at their passion, what drives them and their philosophy.

"Soft skills, hard skills of leadership. That piece of learning has really opened my eyes.

"I have been a captain at most of the clubs I have played for. They call you a natural leader and I wonder why that is?

"Now I am reflecting on the qualities and the values of who I am.

"That's something that I have learned so far that has been very helpful.

"I have massive ambitions still with my playing career, though, and that's still the big goal.

"I want to get out of League One and then set the next target."

By Iain King

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