BAILEY WRIGHT insists his commitment to Sunderland never wavered despite the persistent summer speculation linking him with a possible move away from the Stadium of Light.

Wright’s future was the subject of considerable conjecture throughout the close season, with Wigan Athletic understood to have made at least one attempt to prise him from Wearside and stories in his homeland linking him with a possible return to Australia.

Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson remained adamant he did not want to lose the centre-half, whose contract is due to expire next summer, and Wright duly remained with the Black Cats when the transfer window closed at the end of last month.

He found himself out of the starting line-up at the start of the season, but having stepped into the side to make only his second league start of the campaign as Sunderland trounced Cheltenham on Tuesday, the 29-year-old has addressed suggestions that he was looking for a way out earlier this summer.

“Speculation is speculation and what is said, I have always just focused on my football here,” said Wright. “I’m a Sunderland football club player and I enjoy working with everyone here, the staff and players.

“Whatever was said was said, and I’m just focused on doing my best to try and get in that team because it’s been a difficult team to get into and that’s a credit to everyone who has had the shirt in whatever position.

“I’ve worked with the gaffer at my last club (Bristol City) and obviously know him well. I’ll obviously speak with him, and he can be honest with me and I can be honest with him.

“There was no speculation between us, there was sort of outside noise and as a player you just get on with what you are here to do and that is to pull on a Sunderland shirt and do it for the club and your team-mates. I’m happy to be here and happy to be focusing on where we want to get to because I enjoy my football here and, for me, that’s what I focus on most. That is all in the past now.”

Wright faces a battle to hold on to a starting spot at the heart of the back four, with Johnson having signed a number of new central defenders in the summer.

Callum Doyle has been a revelation since moving to Wearside on a loan move from Manchester City, while his fellow loan arrival, Frederik Alves, has shown enough to suggest he could also be a viable long-term proposition at the heart of the back four. Tom Flanagan, who played alongside Wright at centre-half on Tuesday, has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent players this season, having remained since last term.

“The boys have wanted to keep that shirt, so it’s football and you have to be patient,” said Wright. “There is competition for places, you can’t get complacent and no one is guaranteed that place.

“If we are in the team or aren’t in the team, we all want each other to do well and that’s important. We have a good culture and atmosphere, and when you have that togetherness, of course when you are not in the team you are frustrated, but it’s ultimately a better life when you are winning.”

Tuesday’s win took Sunderland three points clear at the top of the table, and they will be looking to extend their advantage when they head to Fratton Park this weekend to take on a Portsmouth side that are struggling in the bottom half of the table.

“We set out in pre-season what our targets were as a club and what sort of team we want to be and the football we want to play,” said Wright. “I think we have shown this season what we are about and are getting stronger and stronger."