Bailey Wright discusses Alex Neil's decision to leave him out of Sunderland's starting XI

Bailey Wright says he can’t argue with Alex Neil’s decision to leave him out of Sunderland’s starting XI and that it’s his job to keep team-mates on their toes.

The Australian centre-back was a key player under Neil last season, starting all 18 matches under the Scot, as the Black Cats won promotion from League One.

Yet Wright, who also helped Australia qualify for the World Cup in June, has been named on the bench for Sunderland’s first two Championship fixtures, with Danny Batth and new signing Daniel Ballard playing in the heart of defence.

Wright, 30, did start Sunderland’s Carabao Cup defeat against Sheffield Wednesday before speaking to the media after the match.

Bailey Wright playing for Sunderland. Picture by Frank Reid

After spells at Preston and Bristol City in the Championship, the Aussie defender says the Black Cats have adapted well after moving up to the second tier.

“We have a really good squad and I think we will back ourselves to get stronger and stronger throughout the season,” he said. “We have started well but that start doesn’t count if you don’t continue.

“It’s about not getting complacent and pushing each other everyday.

“I’ve watched from the sidelines but I’m very much keeping lads on their toes to make sure they are performing because naturally I want that shirt and the lads have done really well.

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“I can’t argue there, I’m not stupid to say that I should just play. The lads have done really well and I’ve got a role to play.”

Wright also started last season out of Sunderland’s starting XI and knows there will be opportunities throughout a long and congested campaign.

“You get your chance if you work hard and keep lads on their toes and keep pushing yourself,” he added.

“It’s more of a mental thing than physical if you can prepare mentally and make sure you are the best version of yourself, that you can be and be ready and support your team-mates.

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“We all have the same goal and want to do really well this season and all need each other.

“That togetherness we’ve got throughout the group, I think there is a healthy competition for places among all of us for our positions.

“There is a real care and meaning to wanting your mate to do well as well, and that counts for a lot.”

Wright is also viewed as one of the leaders in Sunderland’s dressing room and wants standards to remain high.

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“I just am who I am,” he replied when asked about his role in the squad. “If it means I can help out and naturally support people where I can in training, setting standards or pushing standards, sometimes overstepping the mark and being a bit aggressive, that’s the way I train.

“Every opportunity in training is an opportunity to win and be competitive and I guess it’s a role I naturally take.

“There are many of us that set standards in our own different ways and have different styles of leading.

“We have different types of personalities that complement each other well and we have a good balance there so we all have a role to play, whether we are starting on the bench or not on the bench.

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“We all have individual goals but the collective goal is all the same.”