Derby County manager Gary Rowett
With plans for next season well underway at Pride Park, Derby County manager has recently disclosed his desire to keep Nothern Ireland defender Chris Baird at the club beyond the end of the season, according to a report in the Derby Telegraph.
The 35-year-old, who joined the Rams back in 2015 under former boss Paul Clement, has had a tricky time since arriving in Derby. After being named captain by Clement, Chris Baird fell out of favour, eventually leaving the club on loan to Fulham.
However, this season the defender has shown his class and professionalism, stepping up and doing an excellent job in covering injured defender Cyrus Christie. The once unpopular defender has proved himself, and shown his desire to fight for the shirt; something Derby fans have wanted to see more of from their side.
Out of contract in the summer, Derby County fans have largely been keen to see Chris Baird rewarded with a new contract, and now the Derby County manager has had his say:
"I have had a conversation with him and my opinion is we should activate the clause," Rowett said.
"He is exactly the type of player we want around in the group. He has shown that not only is he very versatile, he is also trustworthy in the way he plays the game. Just as importantly, his character is right for what we are looking for moving forward."
Derby's Chris Baird in action with Norwich's Steven Naismith
With the defender now likely to stay, Derby County fans thoughts will surely be turning now to the other two out-of-contract pros at Pride Park: Darren Bent and Cyrus Christie. The 33-year-old striker has scored 27 goals in 82 appearances for the Rams, and right-back Cyrus Christie has been at the club since 2014.
It's expected to be a summer of change at Pride Park, and with Gary Rowett publicly backing a new deal for one of the three out-of-contract players, could this be an indicator that new deals are not on the cards for Bent and Christie? We'll have to wait until the summer to find out. But one thing is for sure: Gary Rowett is already showing that hard work and commitment will be rewarded, with Chris Baird the first prize winner.
Derby County's Chris Baird in action with Nottingham Forest's Ben Osborn