Max Bird provided Derby County with the most perfect parting gift before linking up with Bristol City in the summer.

The midfielder joined the Robins on a permanent basis in January ahead of the expiry of his contract at Pride Park Stadium and returned for the remainder of the campaign on loan.

Bird wanted to finish what he started with Derby and the Academy graduate didn’t disappoint.

After recovering from a recent lay-off with a calf injury, Bird returned to the starting line-up for the crucial final-day meeting with Carlisle United on Saturday to make his 200th and final appearance for the club.

He thundered home a stunning strike inside the first five minutes to get the ball rolling before striker James Collins sealed the victory for Paul Warne’s side in the second period.

It was the perfect send-off from Bird as Derby claimed a 2-0 victory to secure automatic promotion from Sky Bet League One to return to the Championship after a two-year stint in the third tier.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the final whistle, Bird said: “It is unbelievable and just how I dreamt about it being.

“We have stuck together through the low times as a club and the high moments are brilliant for it.

“This is my best day at the club. We wanted to do this as a group and it has been a top season.”

Bird was thrilled to write the most memorable final chapter in his Derby career and he was replaced late on to a standing ovation at a packed Pride Park.

He was delighted to repay the faith shown in him by so many people in playing his part in a promotion campaign.

“It is exactly how I visualised it to score in my final game,” Bird said. “I knew after January that this match would be my final one here and I wanted to go out on a high.

“I wanted to repay the fans, the lads and the staff, even the Academy staff, for what they have done for me.

“They’ve been brilliant with me on this journey.”