Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has outlined the importance of the return of George Friend to the squad this weekend.
Boro are currently struggling at the bottom end of the Championship table as they sit in the relegation zone after 16 games. Middlesbrough in recent years had relied on a formidable defence to guarantee results in spite of a lacklustre attack, however, this season has seen the defence become a bit more porous compared to other years.
It is a symptom of a new and inexperienced manager, but also key injuries in an ever-changing lineup on Teesside. One of those key absentees is club captain George Friend who has featured just twice in the league this season.
The full-back has missed a couple of months this season as he recovers from surgery to heal a ruptured tendon, which kept him out towards the end of last season.
Now, Friend appears to be fully recovered after making an appearance at centre-back against QPR just before the international break, where Woodgate’s side drew 2-2.
With a two-week break from playing to help complete his recovery, Friend is in line to put a run together in the Middlesbrough side heading into the festive period. Speaking in his pre-match press conference this afternoon, Woodgate had this to say on Friend’s impact: “It was good to have George back at QPR. He’s a leader. He’s a great leader.
“He’s been fantastic for me and for this football club over the years. He’s the sort of character you want in there.
“I’ve known George Friend for years from when I was a player and I know he is someone you can rely on in the dressing room.”
Woodgate is right to sing the praises of Friend and how important he is to this Boro side.
He has been a rock at the back for many years at the Riverside so he will be needed to help them get through this awful run at the moment.
It’s a massive boost going into this gruelling part of the calendar and Woodgate will be grateful that his injury list is starting to shrink in recent weeks.