Life beyond the Premier League: Preston defender Bailey Wright hopes to follow Sir Tom Finney's trail to Brazil World Cup

64 years on, Australian centre-back Bailey Wright hopes to make the same journey this summer

Such are the finances of modern football that Preston North End may never again touch the heights they reached in the era of the late Sir Tom Finney but one current player at Deepdale is aiming to emulate the great man in one way at least.

It was in 1950 that Finney played for England at the World Cup in Brazil and 64 years on Bailey Wright – North End's young Australian defender – hopes to make the same journey this summer.

The 21-year-old centre-back's impressively consistent performances in League One drew Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou to last month's fixture against Bradford City where he took a check on Wright and his compatriot and team-mate Neil Kilkenny. The wish now for the uncapped Wright is that when Postecoglou names his squad next week for the friendly against Ecuador at Millwall, he will be included. "I have had contact in the last few months about what is happening," he tells The Independent. "For the game in London in March, it is my aim to get involved and hopefully get a chance to show what I can do." Walking in Finney's footsteps in Brazil, he adds, "would be an unbelievable experience".

It would also underline the progress made since Wright, then 16, flew halfway around the world for trials at Preston and Blackburn Rovers. For a boy from Melbourne, Lancashire was "a big mystery" but it was a gamble he was glad to take.

After a spell at the Victorian Institute of Sport and involvement with Australia's Under-17 team, he was overlooked for the step-up to the prestigious Australian Institute of Sport and ended up leaving school to work for his father. "He is in drainage and construction, so there was quite a lot of concreting and digging, real hands-on work. I never got offered any opportunity to play for the AIS or for the A League clubs, so I gave it my last shot in coming over here and seeing how it would go. Fortunately enough I was offered something."

He has not looked back. Last term Wright – who models himself on Nemanja Vidic – made more league appearances than any other Preston player, earning the club's Young Player of the Year prize, and in his own words, he has "progressed again this year". So too his team, whose fortunes have been transformed since Simon Grayson replaced the unpopular Graham Westley as manager 12 months ago, with Preston sitting in fourth, handily placed for the play-offs at least. "It is a different style of management," Wright says of Grayson. "He has had a lot of success out of this league [promotions with Blackpool and Leeds United] and has given the lads confidence. He gives you a lot of trust and responsibility which seems to work if you've got the right squad of players.

"The club deserve to be in a higher league and hopefully a big occasion like the club had on Saturday will help push us on in the right direction," he continues, referring to the moving tributes paid to Finney before and during last weekend's 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient. "It really sunk in on Saturday when you got to the ground and you realised how much appreciation had been shown and what sort of send-off he got. As players we knew how big the occasion was."

Wright has another connection with those "proud Preston" days. When Finney's team reached the 1954 FA Cup final, the side included an Australian centre-half in Joe Marston. The first Aussie to play in a Wembley Cup final, Marston remains an iconic figure Down Under. "By all accounts he is a legend here as well," says Wright. At Deepdale you cannot ignore the past, but for Wright the future looks bright, too.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam