A moment he had most likely dreamt about growing up in the Derby County Academy, midfielder Max Bird realised a dream yesterday, albeit briefly, as he captained the Rams in the closing stages of the 2-0 defeat against promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
As the substitutes' board flashed up number 32, signalling the end of Wayne Rooney’s afternoon, the skipper turned to his side and planted the captain’s armband around the arm of his midfield partner, Bird.
Those hard years of improving, persevering and honing his talents, rising through the youth ranks at Pride Park Stadium, all paid off in that one moment - and what a moment for the 19-year-old, who has flourished in his midfield role under manager Phillip Cocu.
It was fitting that the man he has struck a key partnership in midfield with should hand him the captaincy, and it’s someone Bird has idolised for years.
Whilst the result on the pitch did not go the way of the Rams, Bird can look back fondly on the game in years to come.
“It was a nice touch and positive for me on a personal note,” he told RamsTV.
“We have formed a good partnership in the last couple of months, me and Wayne, and every single day it is a dream come true for me to be playing alongside one of my childhood heroes.
“For him to hand the captain’s armband over to me was a big achievement for me. I have been at the club for ten years now and that was good but ultimately, we lost the game and we were here to win.”
Grady Diangana gave West Brom the lead on 11 minutes as he beat the offside trap to slide the hosts in front.
Dara O’Shea scored the Baggies’ second with just under 15 minutes of the game left to play to ensure the Rams fell to their first defeat in seven games.
Due to results elsewhere, it meant the Rams stayed three points behind Cardiff City, who they travel to face next Tuesday, but dropped to ninth following positive results for Swansea City and Preston North End.
With four games of the season remaining, Bird knows that there is still a long way to go and is still expecting twists and turns in the race for the play-offs.
“We have got difficult games coming up but we know with the quality we have in our team,” he said.
“We have Tom Lawrence coming back into the team now and Martyn Waghorn in a couple of games – we have some really talented players in the team.
“Even the Academy lads who came in today, Jahmal and Browny, two very good players – we have some good depth in the team.
“Now it is just a case of picking our heads up and going out against Brentford to try and get a result.”