Derby County youngster Max Bird has had a taste of senior football and wants to prove himself worthy of staying up there in the 2018/19 season.
Last season, Bird, aged just 16 at the time, made his first-team debut starting in the EFL Cup against Barnsley, receiving high praise for his 81 minutes on the pitch.
This year, a new manager brings in a new pair of eyes to impress and Bird is fully focused on putting his head down and letting his performance do the talking.
Frank Lampard may see a little of himself in the 17-year-old. Not only because of the similar positions in the heart of the midfield, but because of the outstanding work ethic that is so heavily linked with Lampard’s success.
Bird, who admitted to getting calls by coaches in the off-season for working too hard, possesses that same drive and hunger to achieve his goals.
“I’m a bit guilty of doing too much sometimes, I got the odd call from people here saying you’ve gone too hard on this run or done this or that. That’s just the way I am,” Bird explained.
“My goal is the same every year – to get to the top. I had a little bit last year, but I want to get there, stay there and prove my point.”
He added: “Lampard is a role model to me and I was very excited when he was appointed. Hopefully I can impress him and his team.
“I set my standards really high and I just need to keep improving every day and hopefully that will just take me there.
“Everyone is happy to be back but the new manager brings a real buzz to the place. Everyone is looking forward to meeting him.”
While the first-team have been away in Tenerife, the Under-18s and 23s have been putting in the work at home.
Bird has spent his time with Darren Wassall’s side preparing for another season where he will likely feature heavily in the Premier League 2 Division 1 again.
“I’ve started off with the 23s, I haven’t been with the 18s yet but I am happy to do whatever they want me to do whether it’s to go up, down or stay where I am. I’m just wanting to keep going,” he said.
“Pre-season is tough, but it’s got to be done. You come back, are probably not as fit as you can be, you’ve been given off-season programmes and everyone does them, but you come back and have to get as fit as possible.”
An intense pre-season is vital to the Under-23s who take pride in their physicality that has helped them to be the only Championship side to remain and be able to compete in the Premier League 2’s top division.
Against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea’s academies, the young Rams know slacking is no option and that means every minute of a long season.
He added: “You saw against Leicester we were just putting everything in it and that was the last game of the season.
“When we had Arsenal as well we felt that we could physically match them and against all the big teams, we are good at that.
“We work our socks off every game, so we know pre-season is hard but we know it is beneficial.”