Wigan Athletic were keen admirers of Sunderland defender Bailey Wright during the summer transfer window.
Despite remaining at The Stadium of Light, the 29-year-old only accumulated 38 minutes of football in Sunderland’s opening six games of the season.
Wright has proceeded to play the full 90 minutes in three of the club’s next four League One contests, with Kevin Phillips heaping praise on Lee Johnson for managing to keep him, during an interview with Football Insider.
The Australian international joined The Black Cats in January 2020, in what was a six-month loan deal.
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Making the deal permanent that summer, Wright penned down a two-year deal with the League One promotion-hopefuls.
Helping Preston North End to promotion from England’s third-tier back in 2015, Wright’s experience of success in this division could prove invaluable as the campaign progresses.
Speaking to Football Insider about Wright’s importance in that Sunderland team, Phillips said: “I just don’t think Sunderland could have afforded to let him go, nor can they in January.
“He is pivotal when he plays and around the dressing room it looks like he has a lot of respect and authority. You need those kind of leadership qualities to nurture the younger players.
“He is a very good player at that level. He has shown it consistently.
“I think we will see him stay at least until the end of the season and perhaps longer.
“It’s great that he has a good relationship with the manager as well. One of the biggest things that has jumped out to me from what I’ve heard is that Lee Johnson has a fantastic relationship with this group of players.
“It is hopefully a sign that this team can be successful.”
Wright has shown that he can be a top performer at League One level, and he has the experience and know-how to help guide The Black Cats back to the Championship.
Saturday’s 4-0 loss at Portsmouth has certainly dented what was a brilliant start to the season, but having a player like Wright in the side will help them bounce back.
Given the competition for places in Sunderland’s backline, Wright does not just walk into the team, he will need to keep working and plugging away to ensure a starting place.
It remains to be seen if any further interest emerges in January. Wright has less than 12 months on his contract, and he could be an excellent asset for several third-tier clubs.