Preston’s youth setup hasn’t produced many first-team regulars in recent memory, but Bailey Wright was a major success story.
Plucked from VIS in his native Australia, Wright made the move to Preston in 2009. He was handed a two-year scholarship, and signed a professional deal just 17 months later having shown real potential.
Come March 2011, Wright had already made his senior debut. In less than two years, Wright had gone from relative unknown to playing in the Preston first team – something he would become all too familiar with.
Despite Graham Westley’s best attempts to sell him in 2012, Wright ended up racking up more than 200 appearances for North End. He was vital in winning promotion from League One, playing his part in the 4-0 win over Swindon Town at Wembley in 2015.
Sadly, Preston couldn’t keep Wright at Deepdale. In January 2017, with just months left on his contract, Wright chose to leave Deepdale for a move to Championship rivals Bristol City.
The Lancashire Evening Post claim that the deal was worth around £600,000. Wright famously suggested that he felt he had a better chance of getting in the Premier League with Bristol City than with Preston – comments that didn’t exactly go down well with sections of the North End fanbase.
With time, you realise that Wright wasn’t throwing anything in Preston faces; he just wanted to further his career, and made a move to try and do so – even if it didn’t work out as he’d have wanted.
The centre back was named Robins captain just months after his arrival, and made 83 appearances for the club before heading out on loan to Sunderland for the second half of this season, but suffered ankle ligament damage.
Today, Bristol City announced that Wright is leaving the club. His contract has expired, and after three-and-a-half years at Ashton Gate, he will now become a free agent.
Wright took to Twitter to post an emotional goodbye, and it seems likely that he will end up signing for Sunderland as a free agent this summer having already been on loan there.
As for a Preston return? Well, stranger things have happened. Preston should be active in the free agent market this summer due to the global pandemic, but a centre back won’t be a top priority unless Ben Davies is sold.
At 27, Wright is far from past it, but whether North End would bring him back is another matter, especially with Jordan Storey seeking playing time.