'I was a fan before I even came to the club': The Socceroo inside Sunderland's revival

Popular documentary series Sunderland Til' I Die may have captivated audiences around the world, but last year, Socceroo Bailey Wright's investment in the club's fortunes became a whole lot more personal. 

The defender became the first Australian international to sign for Sunderland when he joined on loan from Bristol City in January 2020. Eight months later, he made the move permanent, joining a proud club determined to rebound from one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. 

You can listen to Bailey Wright's appearance on The Socceroos Podcast in the player below and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play & Spotify.

Speaking on The Socceroos Podcast, Wright revealed how he was one of the millions who watched from a fly-on-the-wall perspective as the North-East club experienced the cruel fate of double relegation from the English Premier League to League One. 

"I think the Netflix show was a favourite documentary for a lot of people," he said.

I wasn't here when it was filmed but I was a fan before I even came to the club, because of the documentary.

"I think it created a lot of Sunderland fans around the world, for obvious reasons, it's a massive club with a passionate support base and incredible history. All these things I've not been disappointed with since joining." 

The Melbourne-born defender is no stranger to the English football landscape, having played all of his senior football abroad. 

Since making his Preston North End debut back in 2010, Wright has enjoyed a taste of both club and international football at the Stadium of Light - starting in the heart of Australia's defence in front of nearly 47,000 people as the Socceroos took on England back in May 2016. 

" I have played at the Stadium of Light on a number of occasions and obviously played for Australia against England there as well," he said. 

"I have always felt that there was a sense of something amazing about the place, real passion and pride around the city and you certainly feel that when you come here. Even more so when the stadium's full and there are bums on seats, which we're all waiting for. 

"But the doco has definitely created fans around the world, I think most of my mates watched the doco before I'd signed and it seems like they know so much about the club and just want Sunderland to do well. So  I think it's been good for the club in a number of ways." 

As brought to life by the popular series, Sunderland is a fallen powerhouse club in the midst of a rebuilding phase. 

With boardroom deals still to be finalised when he joined the club, Wright honestly revealed the challenges players face when it comes to blocking out off-field concerns, particularly in the wake of COVID-19 and its unprecedented impact upon elite sport. 

"Obviously we've had a bit of uncertainty for a little while and the takeovers have been rumored for a long time," Wright admits.

"As players, those external noises you have just got to put to one side and focus on your job that's winning football matches and doing your best for Sunderland Football Club."

Bailey Wright
Bailey Wright signed for Sunderland on a permanent basis in August 2020

The club's short-term ownership instability was brought to an end with the takeover of young French businessman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus as majority shareholder last month. 

The Socceroos defender shared some positive first impressions from the club's new hierarchy.

"I've enjoyed my time here and there has been a rebuilding at the club," Wright said. 

"This season we've had a lot of change after a little bit of uncertainty at the club surrounding the ownership but we've had a new owner come in, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus - he's got a lot of big plans and visions for the club and he's not messed about.

"He's got to work straight away, everything we're hearing and seeing sounds great and some people he is bringing in and his visions and his philosophies of what he's learned, you know for someone who's only 23 he seems to know a lot about the game and is extremely passionate about it.

"So there's a lot to look forward to there from a player's point of view, the staff, and fans; I think it's an exciting time for the club."

Sunderland currently sit fourth in League One with 31 matches played.

The Black Cats are just five points off the automatic promotion spots, with two games in hand on second-placed Hull City. 

All considered, Wright feels his side are set for a"strong finish to the season."

"We're not where we want to be just yet, but we're taking strides in the right direction," he said.

"Our performances are getting stronger and stronger and we're picking up a bit of momentum coming into second half of the season, which is important to get where we want to be.

LISTEN: Socceroos Podcast | Bailey Wright

"For a club like Sunderland, it's obvious that we want to get promoted this season. That's the goal for everyone within the club and all the fans as well.

"On a personal level I've been feeling good physically mentally, I've enjoyed my football and enjoyed the challenge of playing for a big club."

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In a disappointing development for football documentary fans, Wright confirmed that there is not another series of Sunderland Til' I Die in the works.   

"There's not another Netflix documentary being filmed of at a few people asked me that," he clarified. 

"A lot of Aussies have become fans, which is great, but yeah there are no cameras around the training ground at the moment. We're just focusing on our business, which is the main thing."