Doncaster: Middlesbrough chase Rovers ace George Friend

Wanted man: George Friend is attracting the interest of several Championship clubs.
Wanted man: George Friend is attracting the interest of several Championship clubs.
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HIGHLY-rated Doncaster Rovers defender George Friend is wanted by Middlesbrough, The Star has learned.

The Championship outfit are believed to be monitoring the talented left-back’s situation following Rovers relegation to League One. Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leeds United are also rumoured to be interested in adding Friend to their ranks.

Primarily a left-back, Friend, who received the Supporters’ Club Player of the Season award last term, can fill in at centre-back or on the left hand side of midfield.

Injuries restricted the 24-year-old to 26 starts and three substitute outings last year as Dean Saunders men finished bottom of the pile.

Like Rovers, Boro are looking to significantly slash their wage bill over the summer. However, Tony Mowbray has just one natural left-back on his books in youngster Joe Bennett and The Star understands it is an area he is looking to strengthen to turn the club into viable promotion contenders. Boro ended up seventh in the table, five points adrift of the play-off placings.

When Bennett was injured or suspended, Mowbray asked Justin Hoyte, a right footed player, to deputise in that position.

Friend is comfortable in possession and likes to get forward at every available opportunity to support the attack. His versatility is a huge asset. Saunders utilised his qualities briefly in defensive midfield last season.

Friend is one of 12 senior players still contracted to Rovers for the 2012/13 campaign. Two other members of that group include left-backs Tommy Spurr and teenage starlet James Husband.

Despite the big name departures of El-Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda, Rovers have no option but to listen to offers for prize assets James Coppinger, Brian Stock and Friend.

Saunders is a big admirer of Friend and would like to keep him at the Keepmoat Stadium.

But the Welshman, who wants a squad of around 21 players, has said: “Something has to give and, to get the budget down, players will be leaving.

“I’ve got a list of players lined up at different levels and different salaries but that is dependent on when, or if, the contracted players leave.”