Friend glad of options

Centre of attention: George Friend looked assured in midfield at Portman Road last weekend
Centre of attention: George Friend looked assured in midfield at Portman Road last weekend

DONCASTER Rovers’ skipper George Friend has proved himself to be one of the best defenders in the Championship in the last 18 months - but he could also have another string to his bow.

Signed originally as a left-back by manager Sean O’Driscoll after being released by Wolves, Friend was converted to a centre-back during an injury crisis last season and produced a series of outstanding displays in the heart of the Rovers defence.

Friend had played in both positions for new boss Dean Saunders, who had lost the services of John Oster until early in the New Year, prior to being switched to midfield in last weekend’s match at Ipswich Town.

“I told the manager that I had played there a bit in the reserves when I was at Wolves,” Friend said.

Saunders had experimented with left-back Herita Ilunga in midfield in the midweek game against Middlesbrough, with Friend operating at left-back, but the two switched roles against Paul Jewell’s side.

“I’m not sure why the manager decided to change it on Saturday,” said Friend. “Possibly he just thought that I could help us win the aerial battle with my height.

“He probably thought that I’d bag myself a goal and I really should have done to be honest. The early chance from Brian Stock’s ball into the box was probably the best one. The header from Brian’s corner was another and I also had a chance from El-Hadji’s cross though it was a little bit too high for me and I headed wide.

“They were the main chances. Obviously I’m not a striker but I would still liked to have scored at least one. I’m happy to play wherever the manager picks me to play and if we can pick up a great result like we did on Saturday then I’m very happy to be part of that.

“The manager wanted me to both add to the attack and the defence and he told me that he wanted to see me go up and down the pitch.

“I’m athletic and I like to think that’s something that I’ve got in my game.

“We tried to press them high up the field on Saturday and certainly in the first half we were tough to get past whilst scoring three great goals.”

Although some of his team-mates would probably have preferred either a game in midweek or tomorrow, or both, Friend says he is glad of the international break.

“I’ve played every game this season so for me personally it’s nice not having a game this week,” he said. “It’s also a chance for the lads who have been out injured to catch up on their fitness.”