DONCASTER Rovers’ star George Friend is looking to build on a successful first season at the club during the 2011-12 campaign which kicks off at Brighton today.
Friend, who joined Rovers on a free 12 months ago after been released by Wolves, emerged as one of the stars of last season’s team after being converted from left-back to centre-back.
So much so that there were concerns that a bigger club might come in for the Devon-born defender during the summer.
Friend, whose initial two-year deal was due to run out next summer, recently signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2012-13 season.
“I was very pleased to sign a new deal,” said Friend. “There had been speculation during the summer, but I’m really happy to still be here.
“My first year at the club was brilliant and that is why I was so happy to be rewarded with a new contract because it’s a real pleasure to be here.
“I think that the form that I showed in the second half of last season playing at centre-back will encourage me to push on again this season.
“I enjoyed it at centre-back and I think that’s where the manager sees me playing in future. He doesn’t even play me at left-back in training any more - although I could obviously still play there if I was needed.”
Friend is likely to have two new summer signings - Tommy Spurr and Richard Naylor - either side of him in the back-four in today’s game. “I’ve been impressed with the quality of the signings,” he told The Star. “The manager has brought in some really good players. He’s good at bringing in people on frees and developing them.
“We have also been lucky enough to keep hold of Billy (Sharp) and Copps (James Coppinger). It was encouraging to me when I was looking to sign and it lifted the squad.”
Friend says that competition for places will be intense as the injured players start to press their claims during the coming months.
“Everybody is certainly going to have to be on their toes to hold down a place in the team when everyone is fit but that can only be good for the club,” he said.
Looking ahead to this afternoon’s encounter at the Amex Stadium, Friend said: “It is a hard game to start the season, but there are no easy games at this level.
“They came up as League One champions last season and earned themselves a reputation for good football. It is a big day for them, the first competitive game at their new stadium. “Hopefully we can get a result but if the worst comes to the worst, with games coming thick and fast at this time of the season, you don’t have long to wait for the chance to bounce back quickly.”
n Birthday treat for Barnes - See p41