Why Bailey Wright's form in new role is no surprise to Sunderland boss - and what the future may hold

Lee Johnson says Bailey Wright's impressive form at right back is no surprise, and that he has total trust in the defender to continue there if required.

By Phil Smith
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 6:00 am

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Sunderland' s injury issues have seen the side switch between a back five and a lopsided 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks, with Wright handed an important role on the right.

The experienced centre back has often been asked to switch positions within games, and impressed in the two most recent home wins with his willingness to step out in possession and start attacks.

Johnson paid tribute to one of his club captain's for his form, but added that it was a role that he had seen him perform to a high level when the pair worked together at Bristol City.

Sunderland defender Bailey Wright

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"I've had Bailey for a number of games across two clubs," Johnson said.

"He played half a season for me at right back for Bristol City and performed extremely well.

"He's a better footballer than he probably gets credit for and I think people are seeing that now.

"He's able to carry the ball and manipulate it really well, and create those little pockets of space for players like Alex Pritchard and Leon Dajaku.

"He's also a very solid defender, and not much gets past him.

"He obviously hasn't got that linear speed like a Dennis Cirkin or Denver Hume, but he's got that awareness that means his opponent always has a difficult day.

"I've been really pleased with him.

"Off the pitch he's such a consistent character and so important for the culture we have.

"When he gets that run of games, it always brings out his best football.

"We've asked him to be flexible and fluid.

"I thought he was absolutely outstanding at Cambridge United and since then, he's had games at right back and I think that shows the level of trust that I have in him."

Wright is one of a number of Sunderland players whose contract is currently set to expire at the end of this season.

Johnson has suggested that talks over a possible renewal are yet to begin, with contracts the domain of Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.

"That's probably a question for Kristjaan, to be fair," Johnson said.

"Every club operates slightly differently and here I've tended to really focus on the training, the team, that day-to-day stuff.

"I'm sure in the not too distant future decisions will be made, and I'll of course have my strong recommendations.

"But that's up to the powers that be to negotiate.

"Bailey is in his prime, and I think we can help each other.

"It's a really good club for Bailey and while we're going well, you don't want to break that up."

Wright has now made 23 appearances across all competitions for Sunderland this season, and is now established as a regular in the League One starting XI after initially having to be patient as Tom Flanagan and Callum Doyle started the campaign in excellent form.

Johnson hopes to soon have Denver Hume and Dennis Cirkin back fit, strengthening his defensive options.

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