Central midfielder Max Bird is a graduate of the illustrious Derby County Academy.
Bird, who rose through the youth ranks from an early age and into the senior squad whilst still a teenager, was earmarked as an exciting prospect for many years and he's certainly gone on to prove he is more than capable in the first team.
Bird made his first team debut for Derby at the age of just 16, four days before his 17th birthday, as he played 81 minutes in an EFL Cup fixture against Barnsley at Oakwell in August 2017.
Whilst that would be his only first team appearance that season, he would continue to play for the club's Under-18s and Under-21s side, captaining the latter.
The 2018/19 campaign would be a progressive one for Bird, who helped the Under-18s win the Premier League National Final by beating Arsenal 5-2 at Pride Park Stadium.
He also regularly trained with the first team squad and made his league debut for Derby against Swansea City in December 2018 off the bench, while his first start came in a defeat against Aston Villa in March 2019.
His hard work and dedication paid off as he was named as the EFL Apprentice of the Year, whilst the following season would see Bird enjoy a stunning breakthrough campaign.
In what was his first season as a professional after two years as a scholar, Bird stepped up to the plate and made himself a first-team regular in the second half of the campaign.
After impressing for Derby’s Under-21 side in the first half of the season, Bird – and a number of other Academy starlets - grasped the opportunity to shine with both hands.
A fine display off the bench at Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day in 2019 saw him rewarded with a place in the side in the following fixture, a 2-1 home victory over Charlton Athletic in which he set up Knight for his second goal of the evening, and he never looked back from that point onwards.
Bird made 27 appearances in all competitions and formed a strong relationship with then-skipper Wayne Rooney in the middle of the park.
On two occasions in the latter stages of the season, he donned the captain’s armband after Rooney was substituted in the second half of the away fixtures at West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City.
His impressive and composed performances saw him claim the Sammy Crooks Young Player of the Year award for the 2019/20 season, as well as the Players’ Player of the Year accolade.
Bird made 34 appearances in the 2020/21 campaign as the season was played behind-closed-doors owing to COVID-19 outbreak, but he kicked on the following season, earning the 2021/22 Sammy Crooks Young Player of the Year for the second time in his Rams career.
The midfielder showed great maturity as he made 43 appearances during what was a challenging season, scoring two goals. His first for the club came in September 2021 in a 2-1 victory over Stoke City on his 21st birthday, whilst he added to his tally in February against Middlesbrough.
Ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, Bird was named as the club's vice-captain and went on to wear the armband on 25 occasions across the course of the season.
Aside from an injury that kept him out of the side for a spell in February and March, Bird was an ever-present for the side and even hit his 150th Derby appearance at just 22-years-old.
His superb long-range strike against Cheltenham Town midway through January 2023 landed him the Goal of the Season Award for the 2022/23 season and the League One Goal of the Month accolade for League One.
PRE-MATCH INTERVIEW2 months ago 3mins