The 2018/19 campaign was a big one for 18-year-old Max Bird.
From making his first-team league debut to winning the EFL Apprentice of the Season award, it was another progressive season for the midfielder.
Named captain of the Derby County Under-23s at the start of the campaign, he made 19 appearances for Darren Wassall’s side whilst his impressive progression also saw him recognised by first-team boss Frank Lampard.
The youngster, who had already made one appearance for the first-team during the 2017/18 campaign in the Carabao Cup, made his Sky Bet Championship debut off the bench against Swansea City at Pride Park Stadium in December.
His first start for the club came in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round clash against Southampton at Pride Park Stadium in early 2019, whilst his first league start came at Villa Park against Aston Villa at the start of March.
Overall the youngster made 37 appearances in all competitions, eight of which came for the first team.
His attitude, desire and willingness to learn has been commended by Lampard on numerous occasions during the season and his progression as a footballer has been applauded by the Academy coaches.
Wassall, Derby's Academy Director, has seen Bird’s rise from close quarters and could not be prouder of the youngster.
“He’s a fantastic lad and his temperament, maturity, leadership qualities and ability as a player shine through day-in-day-out,” Wassall told RamsTV.
“He is so consistent in his attitude every day. He knows where he wants to go and where he wants to be.
“He is very dedicated to the cause, for the team and himself as an individual. He is certainly one for the future and hopefully he will continue to impress and get opportunities.
“He has had an unbelievable season in the Academy. He has the ability and is a great example right the way though the Academy, down to the Under-8s, in how to conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis as a professional footballer.
“He is a great role model for everyone, and we are all proud of him. We need to keep the conveyer belt going and he is a real example.”
The youngster’s attitude to his studies, as well as his performances on the pitch, have been something which has set him apart from many and saw him awarded the EFL Apprentice of the Season at the EFL Awards in April.
This award recognises outstanding young professionals at EFL clubs who excel both on and off the pitch. Judges take playing records, educational attainments and disciplinary records into account as well as any other outstanding achievements.
Bird ticked all the criteria boxes, and Under-18s boss Walker believes his inclusion in the first-team squad helps bring the whole club together.
“Max is someone who doesn’t have an ego,” he said. “The players just want to play and they are all together.
“They are all pushing each other to get better and it’s testament to Max really that even when he’s been with the first-team, he still is in the Under-18/Under-23 dressing room and he watches the games.
“Everyone is together and we saw that when the Under-18s won the National Final, the first-team were in the dressing room ready to celebrate with them.
“We talk about it, but to see it really shows the togetherness of the club.”