Max Bird has thanked Derby County’s supporters for giving the Rams’ players what he has described as a ‘tremendous send-off’ at the weekend.
Derby’s eventful 2021/22 campaign came to a conclusion on Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 defeat against Cardiff City at Pride Park Stadium.
A crowd of just shy of 30,000 fans turned out to show their appreciation towards manager Wayne Rooney and his squad for their efforts on the pitch in an incredibly challenging campaign.
The entire season was played out amid a backdrop of off-the-field issues which saw Derby deducted a mammoth 21-points for entering administration as well as a historical breach of profitability and sustainability rules.
That deduction left Derby’s squad, which by the end of the season was threadbare and stacked with various young players from the Academy, with a mountain to climb to retain Championship safety.
Their quest to avoid the drop was in vain, but Derby earned widespread praise for their performances and several impressive results, especially on home turf, to remain in with a shout of safety.
Following the Cardiff game, the Rams’ faithful remained inside Pride Park to thank the players and offer a huge standing ovation during their ‘Lap of Appreciation’.
Bird, who was named as the club’s Sammy Crooks Young Player of the Season last week, felt the ovation from the supporters was the perfect way to bring down the curtain on the campaign.
“It was a tremendous send-off,” Bird told RamsTV after the game. “I feel as though the fans have been the ‘12th man’ for us this season and they’ve helped us a lot in every single game, which I have said in previous interviews.
“The game itself didn’t go how we wanted, but the send-off from the fans was fantastic.”
He added: “It has been my best season so far, by a mile. It has been special and not just because of the fans and the connection with them, but also the squad we’ve had and the way the older lads have been with us as younger players.
“It’s sad that the season has finished, you kind of want it to go on and keep playing with these lads.”
Saturday’s meeting with Cardiff saw six players in the starting line-up that had progressed through the club’s Academy.
A further two came off the bench in the second half and youngsters making an impact was a theme throughout the campaign.
Bird, at just 21, has admitted to taking on a ‘father figure’ role with Derby’s young guns this term.
“I always say to the other young lads, and the ones that have come through this season, to smile and enjoy the game,” Bird said.
“It doesn’t seem two minutes since we won the Under-18 Premier League against Arsenal, but it is three years now. You have to cherish these moments, because they won’t last forever.”
Bird made 43 appearances during the season, scoring twice, to take his career total to 133 for Derby.