Bailey Wright is hoping that starring for Sunderland this season can help him win his spot back in the national team.
Wright, who has been part of the Socceroos’ set-up since 2014, joined the Black Cats last month on a permanent deal from Bristol City after a brief loan spell.
The defender, who endured a difficult past 12 months with injury and then falling out of favour at the Robins, made just nine first-team appearances last season in all competitions.
But the 28-year-old has settled in the north-east and is eager to add to his haul of 24 caps for Australia.
“Of course, again with football you have to very much playing well and doing well for your club to get the opportunity to be selected for the national team. That’s very much part of my plans,” he told The World Game.
“There are exciting years ahead – club and internationally with Australia. International football’s been put on hold for a while until there’s a bit more certainty in the world, but there’s some good times ahead.
“We’ve still got our qualifying campaign, and I’m not sure whats happening with the Copa America, but there’s a lot to look forward to. I want to get back selected into those international camps and be back in that starting XI.
“I had a spell there where I played a lot of games [for the Socceroos] regularly and I’d like to get back to that.
"But there’s competition for places, it’s a good squad, so I’m very much focused on doing well here at Sunderland, being successful, and international stuff should hopefully come along with that and I’ll be ready for that.”
Wright helped the Socceroos qualify for Russia in 2018 but was left out of the final FIFA World Cup squad when Bert van Marwijk took over from Ange Postecoglou.
His last appearance for the green and gold came under Graham Arnold in October last year in the 5-0 rout of Nepal.
“I’ve really enjoyed being under Arnie,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from him and enjoyed the couple of camps, the couple of games I’ve had with him. I would have liked to have had a lot more but everything’s been put on hold.
“He’s been brilliant, through the processes of me going on loan to Sunderland then signing permanently I’ve had a few discussions with him, asked him questions and picked his brain on a few things and he gave me some good feedback.
“It’s nice to know you’ve got a manager there that you can get on the phone and give you some advice and help when you need it. That was handy.”
Now the centre-back, who went to Brazil in 2014 with Australia but did not get on the field, is eyeing a place at Qatar in 2022. But he knows there is a lot of hard work ahead for the Socceroos and is taking nothing for granted before qualification for the sport’s biggest tournament can be confirmed.
“We’ll very much focus on the qualifying campaign,” the defender admitted. “The plan is to qualify for the World Cup – of course – but you can never look too far ahead in football. That’s one thing I’ve learnt.
“You plan for what’s ahead of you and you take it as it comes. The overall goal is of course to go to a World Cup but I’ll take each step as it comes my way and go from there.”
Wright played his first game for Sunderland in 2020-2021 last weekend in the 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers, and followed it up mid-week with 90 minutes in the penalty shootout EFL Cup defeat at the hands of Hull City.
The Black Cats finished eighth in League One last season and are desperate for promotion back to the Championship.
The 141-year-old outfit, which features in the Netflix series ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ is one of the biggest clubs in the English lower divisions and the Australian welcomes the pressure that surrounds the Stadium of Light.
“I always wanted to come back to the club, I felt a good connection with it,” Wright said. “It’s a good group of people within the group – good lads, good staff, good manager – which I really enjoyed working under. The overall club speaks for itself, everyone knows Sunderland, the size of the club and whats expected.
“The pressures are there and I enjoy that – all those things play a part in me wanting to come back. I’ve got a good feeling about this season. We’ve been working hard day in day out.
“We’d like to rewrite the [Netflix] series and change it, and if they did another one it would be on the successful Sunderland. The goal is to get promoted… but we have to earn it.
“Nothing’s given. The minimum is Championship football and we have to be at it every week in what is a tough league in League One.
“The end goal is massive and to put some smiles back on faces and get that feel-good factor back at Sunderland. And not just the club but the whole town, because everyone loves the football club, and it’s a great place to be.
“So when you’re in a winning environment and a team that’s successful, I couldn’t think of a better place to be and that’s what we all want.”