Bird must earn his chance to get minutes late on
"It's up to him to fight to stay on the bench and maybe fight his way into the team"
There may be opportunities for Jay Bird to make a return to on-field action before the end of the season.
The 20-year-old has had his early career ravaged by injury, most recently spending six months on the sidelines after knee surgery, having also missed the entirety of 2019/20 with a medial collateral ligament injury.
The striker made two appearances for Russell Martin s first team this season, his first appearances for the club, and netted a brace in the 3-2 win over Stevenage in the Papa John's Trophy.
But following the FA Cup penalty shoot-out win over Eastleigh in November, Bird suffered the injury which would rule him out until his name reappeared on the team-sheet for last Saturday's 1-0 win over Portsmouth, and was an unused substitute again on Tuesday night at Bristol Rovers.
With Bird's recovery coming on, manager Russell Martin said his performances in training in the next few weeks will dictate whether the striker, who is understood to be in talks about a new contract to keep him at the club, will be afforded any time on the pitch in Dons' remaining three games before the season is done.
"Jay has been training hard, he' a bit rusty and has missed a lot of football," said Martin. "He needs to get back into condition, but it's good for him to be back into training every day, back into the routine of being a professional footballer. He's spent more time injured in the last two years than he has fit. So he has to get back into the swing of it.
"He has a lot of good attributes, he showed them in the Stevenage game when he got two goals, and when we played Coventry in pre-season too. He had 60 minutes in a friendly with the U18s with some of the older guys in there which was good for him.
"Now it's up to him to fight to stay on the bench and maybe fight his way into the team, coming back into pre-season fully fit.
"He's put in a lot of hard work, it would be nice to see him get some minutes but that's up to him as to how hard he wants to work. I look forward to seeing what he's capable of during pre-season."