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It’s good that Bailey Wright is back in the fold!

The Aussie’s leadership skills could be vital for Alex Neil over the coming months.

Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Plough Lane is a lovely little stadium - it’s close to the pitch, has good facilities and the decent atmosphere makes it a worthwhile visit at some stage in everyone’s supporting days.

I was a curious spectator on Saturday in the away end, and was closely watching how the team set up and performed in our first game under our new head coach.

Unfortunately, our familiar failings were again on show.

We were devoid of creativity, lacking in confidence and seemed lethargic, struggling to break down the opposition.

Also apparent, however, were the leadership skills that Bailey Wright offers - and it was fascinating to watch how he plays the game.

Like a commentator, Wright talked his way through the 90+ minutes almost as if he was analysing every single move and play for his fellow defensive teammates. His constant and consistent communication to Callum Doyle was clear and it appeared that Doyle was taking on board all the advice he was being given.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

We all know that this Sunderland team is extremely young, and the defence that lined up on Saturday perfectly encapsulated the overall predicament the club finds themselves in - we have an extremely young team, which is sprinkled with a little experience.

New head coach Alex Neil reflected on this on Saturday when he suggested that his younger players are overworked and overplayed while his older, more experienced pros are the exact opposite.

Bailey Wright’s had something of a stop-start season, starting only 14 of 32 league games, and having a couple of spells on the sidelines.

His absences weren’t all down to injury though. He found himself out of the team at times with former head coach Lee Johnson preferring a Tom Flanagan-Callum Doyle partnership before injuries forced a change in formation.

There is also the ongoing issue that Wright seems to made of something akin to very fragile glass. Unfortunately, the Australian spends a large amount of time on the treatment table, and when he comes back into the team he needs a few games to regain match fitness.

All that being said, his return to the team could not have been a more welcome one.

At present, the team appears to be sleepwalking their way out of the play offs. Their form is in tatters, much like the shattered confidence of the players, and the young players in the squad appear tired, both physically and mentally.

Sunderland v Port Vale - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Not only does the return of Bailey Wright offer another body for Alex Neil, but it also gives him a natural leader on the pitch - something this Sunderland team is lacking, particularly with the continued absences of O’Nien and McGeady.

Given his recent form and Wright’s availability, it was something of a blessing in disguise that Danny Baath was absent with injury on Saturday, as it is more than likely that ex Stoke defender would have retained his place if fit.

The saying ‘one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity’ comes to mind here. Wright came into the team Saturday and put in an extremely solid shift. He marshalled and controlled the game well, assisting the young defenders like he was the father educating his sons. Furthermore, it goes without saying, the ex Bristol City defender is also a good defender when he is fit.

The issue, of course, is keeping him fit.

With a bit of luck and a run of games, the return of Bailey Wright to the team could be of great benefit to the new head coach - and to Sunderland’s promotion ambitions.


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