A 1-0 away defeat to Bangkok United the last time out in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) was not a pleasant one for everyone associated to the Lion City Sailors, but for Bailey Wright – it represents a fresh opportunity to hit the reset button and put himself in the reckoning for selection for what is still an exciting end to the season.
Marking his return from injury by coming on as a late substitute, the Socceroos centre-back played out the final 11 minutes of the match (including injury time) and looked sprightly.
There will be four matches between now and 13 December, possibly including the club’s first-ever Singapore Cup final appearance on the cards.
Bailey missed a large chunk of the ACL 2023/24 campaign due to a spate of injuries, but he is now raring to go to make up for lost time – starting from the first leg of the Singapore Cup semi-final tie away against Tampines Rovers at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday (3 December).
“When you come into any club, the way to establish yourself is on the football pitch and taking on the responsibility to produce great performances for the team. Injuries stopped me from doing that and there’s this sense of guilt that I couldn’t deliver more for the fans,” said the 31-year-old, who has scored two goals in six Sailors appearances so far.
“I must thank everybody who has helped me get back to fitness. I’m now feeling really good and hopefully the injuries are now behind me. I’m looking forward to helping the team as much as I can in this final stretch and play every minute possible if I can.”
After seeing their hopes of qualification for the ACL’s Round of 16 extinguished on Wednesday (29 November) night, the Sailors now turn their attention to a tough two-legged tie against Tampines – the second-highest ranked local side behind the Sailors in the 2023 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
Bailey urged his teammates to batten down the hatches for what is the Sailors’ last chance for silverware in 2023.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t progress further in the ACL but we have to keep our heads up. There are still important games ahead of us, a lot of pride at stake, a lot more that can be achieved and a trophy to play for, so that’s massive motivation for me and the team,” said the Australian, who played in the last encounter with the Stags at OTH in August with the Sailors coming away with a handsome 5-2 victory in the SPL.
“Tampines are a good footballing side and they are in the semi-finals for a reason, but we’re growing as a team and we’re high in confidence right now. First and foremost, we have to work hard and fight for the badge so that we can get into the final.”
Defender Christopher van Huizen sang from the same hymn book and has vowed to do everything to ensure the Sailors will play the final on the 9th.
“I couldn’t really sleep after the Bangkok game. I felt we really stuck to our game plan and did everything we could, but sometimes football is decided by such fine margins. Whatever it is, it’s in the past and we have to recover quickly for the Singapore Cup,” said the 31-year-old.
“I joined the club this season to win trophies and that target has not changed. If everyone stays physically and mentally concentrated, and continues to give 100 percent, we can win the Cup. From now on, every game is a final and we don’t want to let any other team get their hands on the cup so we have to shine.”
Backed by an ever-supportive Crew who brought the proper Sailors ruckus from local stadiums to arenas miles away in Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand over the past couple of months, the Sailors know they to repay the fans for their fervent and unwavering support across 2023.
“I’ve been amazed by the support and I didn’t expect that many people to come. Even in the second half when I was playing far away from the away end, I could hear their cheers and chants. I was feeling so down after the match, but they were all there cheering and encouraging us when we walked up to our bus,” said Chris of the match against Bangkok United.
“We’re really blessed that we have such tremendous fans, who are there for us win, lose or draw, and we definitely owe them something.”
Bailey agreed, saying, “That’s what you play football for, to feel the love from your supporters and we certainly felt their affection. You can see how much the team means to them and we want to show how massively appreciative we are of them as well – and that means delivering the Cup for them.”