Youngster Max Bird enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season at Derby County in 2019/20 as he successfully made the step-up from the Academy to the first-team scene.
In what was his first season as a professional after two years as a scholar, during which time he won the 2018/19 EFL Apprentice of the Year award, Academy graduate 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-23 side in the first half of the season, Bird – and a number other Academy starlets such as Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Morgan Whittaker - grasped the opportunity to shine with both hands under manager Phillip Cocu.
A fine display off the bench at Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day 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 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.