Colin Kazim-Richards has made it clear how excited he is to play in front of Derby County’s supporters next season.
The striker played 38 times across the 2020/21 season after joining as a free agent in October 2020.
He arrived to provide a further option in attack at the start of the campaign but went on to play a vital role after forcing himself into Wayne Rooney’s plans upon taking charge in November.
London-born Kazim-Richards, who has made over 500 appearances in club football, began his career in England at Bury and has since gained significant experience both at home and abroad.
The 34-year-old has also played in Turkey, France, Greece, Holland, Scotland, Brazil and Mexico over the course of his career, as well as playing in the Champions League and Europa League.
He brought his unique experience to the table at a time when the Rams needed it most to avoid relegation from the Sky Bet Championship.
His eight goals over the course of the campaign saw him finish as Derby’s leading goalscorer and earn himself a new one-year contract until the summer of 2022.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kazim-Richards is yet to play before the club’s supporters with matches played behind-closed-doors since June 2020.
The hope is that fans will be given the green light to return by the UK Government and the EFL in time for the 2021/22 season.
“I’m hoping they’ll be back - we need them,” Kazim-Richards told RamsTV after Saturday’s 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday which saw Derby escape relegation.
“Playing without fans is not amazing but, like I said, we can only use that as another source of energy for when they come back in. We really knew what we were doing it for in this game, I can’t stress that enough.
“There isn’t a time in the season where we didn’t want it, things just didn’t go our way.”
He added: “The people at the club have stood by us; everything that we have needed, the work they do for us and the hours they put in have been unbelievable, so this is for them.
“And finally, there’s the fans. It is their life and it is bittersweet because we don’t want to be fighting against relegation - we want to be winning stuff - but it was a necessity.”
The 3-3 draw against Wednesday on Saturday was an action-packed affair with both sides looking to avoid the drop.
Derby fought back from 1-0 and 3-2 down to earn a point, which was enough to confirm safety.
Kazim-Richards admitted it was an afternoon where the Rams’ character came to the fore.
He said: “All credit to the guys and the staff; everybody left everything out there. Even credit to Sheffield Wednesday as well. They left everything and some of our troubles, they can relate to them.
“We have been there, in the earlier months of this year, and for them to be deducted six points and still be fighting on the final day is a credit to them.
“The character and personality came out of us.”