Bailey Wright admits he still has to pinch himself over his “amazing” last 12 months which has taken him from the lower leagues in England with newly promoted Preston to Socceroo defender.
Just over a year ago Wright was little-known to Australian football fans, plying his trade in League One in England with Preston North End.
But in an incredible 12 months he has gone to a World Cup, scored a goal on his international debut and recently won promotion to the English Championship with Preston.
His massive year continues next week as the Socceroos begin their road to Russia 2018 with their opening qualifier against minnows Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek.
“That’s the thing in football, you never know what’s around the corner. Sometimes it’s for worse, sometimes for better and lucky enough for me it’s taken me in a direction I want to be,” Wright, from Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula, told FFA TV.
“This time last year getting called into the World Cup squad and being a part of that was an amazing experience and something you still pinch yourself and think ‘did it actually happen?’.
“Now this year with promotion just tops off another good year.
“But I don’t want to rest on that I want to make sure I keep experiencing good highs and keep progressing in the way we want to progress. It’s all been really enjoyable so hopefully there’s more to come.”
Wright’s Preston won promotion at the expense of Socceroos team-mate Massimo Luongo, with a crushing 4-0 win in the Playoff Final at Wembley last month.
“It was an unbelievable day and it’s been a long time coming for the club,” Wright said of the promotion win.
“It was important we had a good semi-final in the playoffs and got to the final and the final spoke for itself really. There was only one team that was going to win it.
“The feeling was unbelievable, still now it’s just a relief and a buzz to know we’ll be playing in the Championship next year and just looking forward to the fixtures coming out.”
With Trent Sainsbury missing the squad through injury, Wright is a chance to start alongside Matthew Spiranovic in the heart of defence against Kyrgyzstan.
He has enjoyed a consistent season at club level and admits he feels more comfortable every time he comes into camp with the Socceroos.
But the 22-year-old has a warning for his team-mates, stressing they can’t underestimate the world’s 177th-ranked nation.
“Any team you play away or any game you play is going to through its challenges at you. Countries like that you don’t really see a lot of and see them play,” he said.
“We’ve seen before, we played Macedonia a few months back and it was maybe an easier game for us and one we drew. We need to make sure we do things right to win the game.
"You always want to get off to a good start. It’s how you set the tempo and it stems right through the qualifying campaign.
“It’s a great way to kick us off…the big picture is getting to Russia and that all starts next week.”