Max Bird believes there’s plenty to be encouraged about on the pitch for Derby County - and he has insisted the players will give it their ‘best shot’ to climb the Sky Bet Championship.
Derby are currently bottom of the league table after having 21 points taken from their season’s total due to entering administration and breaching the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules.
On the pitch, however, Wayne Rooney’s side have displayed plenty of encouraging signs over the course of the campaign in both their results and performances.
They’ve picked up four wins and ten draws from their 19 league outings to date and head into Monday night’s home fixture against Queens Park Rangers (7:45pm kick-off) unbeaten in their last three outings.
A 1-1 draw at Millwall sent Derby into the November international break with something to build on and since returning to action they have picked up four points from a possible six against the Championship’s top two.
A 3-2 success at home to Bournemouth last Sunday saw the Cherries defeated on the road for the first time this season, while the Rams kept free scoring Fulham at bay on Wednesday night to claim a 0-0 draw and became the first team to record a clean sheet at Craven Cottage in the 2021/22 campaign.
Midfielder Bird, a regular in the middle of the park for Rooney’s side, feels the side have several positive foundations to build on as they look to defy the odds and retain their Championship status.
Speaking to RamsTV, Bird said: “We’ve had a great week on the pitch and now we have another tough game on Monday night.
“We know that Queens Park Rangers are a very strong team and we go into this one after two excellent performances against Bournemouth and Fulham.
“To take four points from the top two teams was very encouraging, but we need to build on it.
“We’re not giving up because of the position we are in; the manager has spoken to us and we have to be realistic that the chance is slim - but while there’s an opportunity we will give it our all.
“There’s great group of lads here who stick together and we’re also a good football side. We know that, when on form, we can beat any side in this division and our last two results have proved that.
“We need to keep our heads down and give it our best shot; that is all we can do.”
He added: “A number of us, especially the young lads that have come through the Academy, have an emotional connection to this club and there’s a great bond and balance between youth and experience in the team right now.”
Academy graduate Bird has been joined in the middle of the park by another player to have come through the club’s youth set-up in the last two matches.
Liam Thompson, who is 19, has impressed alongside Bird and Graeme Shinnie in midfield after a succession of impressive displays for the Under-23s earned him his chance to shine.
Reacting to Thompson’s performances, Bird said: “I am buzzing for Tommo; he’s a great lad and a great footballer too.
“He is a very intelligent little player and he’s easy to play with. He works his socks off for the team and he’s also good player; it’s been a pleasure to play alongside him. Hopefully he can stay in the team and we can form a good partnership in midfield.”
He added: “There’s quite a few of us from that Under-18s group in the team now and that shows the great work that has been done in the Academy. To produce the talent we’ve seen in the team is brilliant for the club.”
Bird, who turned 21 in September, has enjoyed a consistent campaign so far.
The midfielder has featured in all 19 league matches to date and scored his first senior goal, on his 21st birthday, in the 2-1 home win against Stoke City.
The 2019/20 Players’ Player of the Season has bounced back from what he has described as an inconsistent 2020/21 campaign to be one of the first names on Rooney’s team sheet.
He said: “I feel on a personal basis that this season is going well.
“As I have said before, I have to continue doing what I am doing and not fall off the pace.
“It is about improving every day, in training and watching my clips, to see where I can get better.
“I want people to look at me as one of the best midfield players in the Championship and that’s the next step for me.
“I need to keep my head down, work hard and put performances in. I lacked consistency last season and I feel this year it is starting to piece together. I am really enjoying my football.”