Phillip Cocu was keen to reserve praise for youngster Max Bird following Derby County’s 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day.

The 19-year-old Academy graduate came off the bench late in the first half of Derby’s penultimate fixture of 2019 at the DW Stadium.

Bird, the EFL’s reigning Apprentice of the Year, replaced Krystian Bielik in midfield after the Poland international found himself walking a tightrope as a result of picking up an early yellow card.

The youngster produced an assured display in the middle of the park in what was his first league appearance of the campaign, having made two early-season appearances in the Carabao Cup.

Cocu praised not only his performance against Wigan, but also the way he has progressed during the season with some impressive displays for Derby’s Under-23 side.

“Max Bird (who came on for Krystian Bielik) did well, I want to mention him,” Cocu told the media.

“I remember in the first part of the season when he came off at half time in the Carabao Cup game at Scunthorpe, he was really at the bottom and struggling, and had some personal reasons.

“He has worked really hard and played many excellent games in the Under-23s.

“We told to him work hard until the moment comes. The team needed him, it was not easy to come in and he did a great job for the team.”

Bird has made 12 first-team appearances for the Rams in total after making his debut as a 16-year-old in the 2017/18 campaign, while he penned a new deal until 2022 earlier this year.