DONCASTER Rovers’ defender George Friend has finally ended speculation over his future by agreeing a three-year deal with Championship outfit Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough had been linked with the 6’ 2” defender, who lifted both major awards at Rovers’ end-of-season presentation night, for most of the summer after the club let it be known that they needed to off-load some of their big earners in order to reduce their wage bill following relegation to League One.
They were the first club that the 24 year-old spoke to after they agreed to meet Rovers’ asking price and he was sufficiently impressed by what manager Tony Mowbray had to say that they remained his first choice despite late interest from Ipswich and Nottingham Forest.
“Middlesbrough were a Premier League club for many years and they have an ambitious chairman and a big following and they’ve got aspirations to get back up there and hopefully they can do it,” said Friend.
“I was also impressed by the Middlesbrough manager and his footballing philosophy and his plans.
“That was a big plus in my decision to go there.
“We didn’t discuss whether I would play left-back or centre-half.
“I think he sees me as someone who can play several positions across the back-four.”
Friend said he was aware that he was one of the contracted players that manager Dean Saunders had wanted to keep if at all possible and that he would have stayed on had circumstances been different.
“What happened last season was very disappointing for the club,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview. “Like most players I want to play at the highest level that I can and when teams from the Championship come in for you (when you are at a League One club) it is hard to turn them down.
“I’m sad to be leaving Doncaster because I enjoyed my time at the club. Prior to joining Rovers I hadn’t played much league football at Wolves so coming to Doncaster, where I played regularly, proved a very good move.
“I had some really proud moments during my time at the club. Walking out at Brighton in the opening game of last season as captain was a huge honour and a very proud moment.”
Friend, who still harbours ambitions to play at Premier League level, says he leaves the club a lot better player.
“I’ve improved massively as a player during my time at Doncaster and I really loved the club and the fans,” he said.
“I just hope that they appreciate why I’ve done.
“I hope the club do really well his season and I’ll always take an interest in their results in the future.”