Max Bird headed in to pre-season off the back of a breakthrough campaign in the Derby County first-team and hopes the 2019/20 season will be even bigger.
It was a season full of debuts for the 18-year-old midfielder as he earned his Championship debut and first league start, as well as his Pride Park bow, to rack up nine appearances for the first-team.
However, Bird – who claimed the EFL’s Apprentice of the Year last season – is eager for more and is determined to cement his place in the first-team squad in the upcoming season.
“I had a couple of weeks off at the end of last season, went on holiday but I had a little think about it and it was a good season for me, but I want to keep going,” Bird told RamsTV.
“I haven’t really cemented my place in the team yet, not at all, and that’s what I want to do this season.
“I picked up awards last season but that is stuff off the pitch as well as on it. I just want to prove to myself and the manager what I can do.”
He added: “I am just going to keep working hard, training well and trying to impress in the games. All the lads, we are all fighting for the same position.
“It is about putting in the hard yards with the running, getting fit, getting stronger and then being better technically and we will see where we can go.
“It’s what I want, to be with the first-team. I had a taste of it last season and really enjoyed that as well, but I just want to carry on my form and see where it takes us this season.”
The man Bird has to impress is new manager, Phillip Cocu, and his success at nurturing youth and developing a seamless transition into first-team football has been well documented in his managerial career.
The youngster, like his Rams teammates, met Cocu for the first time last week in Florida and they now have a handful of training sessions under their belt.
Bird explained that there has been a balance of getting to understand what the manager expects of his squad as well as putting in the hard yards to ensure maximum fitness for just under a month’s time when Derby kick-off their 2019/20 season away at Huddersfield Towm next season.
“Today was a perfect example of that,” he said of the balance of training on Monday.
“The manager has come in told us his philosophy and what he wants from us, but we have had lots of running as well.
“Most of the time we will have a football session, then split off into the running then back to the football.
“It is hard work, but I have really liked the philosophy so far and what he has wanted from us as a team. I am looking forward to the future.”
Bird continued: “I have had a little chat with the manager. He gave me some good advice about what he wanted from me in a certain game in training.
“I am looking forward to more chats with him because he is very experienced with the youth and I just want to impress him and see where it takes me.”