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Friend focused on staying ahead of rest at Boro
GEORGE FRIEND is not about to take his place for granted in Middlesbrough's first team following Joe Bennett 's move to the Premier League.
Bennett's switch to Aston Villa last week has banked an initial £3m in Boro's bank balance and provided a further reminder of just how successful the Rockliffe Park academy is.
More than £35m has been raised in sales over the years from Dave Parnaby's production line and the departure of Bennett is one of the best bits of business to date.
The left-back had lost his place in the team after spending much of pre-season out injured and that allowed Friend to come in and stake a claim.
Manager Tony Mowbray also has the options of playing Julio Arca , Justin Hoyte and Andy Halliday at left-back, but for now the performances of Friend could make it difficult for others to take his place.
Friend, a £250,000 buy from Doncaster Rovers, was one of Boro's better players at Millwall on Saturday, when the Lions claimed a comfortable 3-1 win.
Friend said: "It's a great move for Joe, but at a club like Middlesbrough you've got to play well every game because there's always someone behind you playing for the shirt.
"It doesn't matter who's around, I've got to give my all every week. It's not just about me and we have a lot to reflect on because it would have been better to go in to the break with a win. You can't worry too much about it, you've got to learn from this and push on."
Friend was originally born in the Devonshire town of Barnstaple, where he was picked up by Exeter City. After a couple of years making his way there, he moved to Wolves for £350,000 four years ago.
During his two seasons on the Molineux pay-roll he had four loan spells, one of which was to Millwall where his return was soured by defeat over the weekend.
It was his charging run from deep which earned the penalty Marvin Emnes converted, even if the goal proved insufficient to affect the outcome at the New Den - and fans can expect more forward runs from the defender.
"I tried to push Jimmy Abdou back as much as I could so that he had to do a bit of defending, I like that part of the game, and I'd like to think I defended well too," said Friend.
"I had chances which don't come around all of the time, I'm disappointed not to put them away but pleased to have won the penalty.
"If I get the opportunity, I try to get forward. I'm a defender first, and that's the main part of the job, but if I can keep them quiet as well as getting forward a bit I think I can cause a bit of trouble."
After the departure of Bennett and the ankle ligament injury threatening to keep skipper Rhys Williams out for four months, Mowbray could still add to his defensive ranks in the coming weeks.
He is still running the rule over former Burnley and Reading defender Andre Amougou, while he would also still like to bring in another striker when the window for loans opens on Friday.
But Friend thinks there is plenty of reason for optimism despite losing for the second time in four Championship matches ahead of the visit of Ipswich on September 15.
The 24-year-old said: "We lacked the killer instinct, sometimes the strikers aren't firing and I also had a couple of chances that I should have put away at Millwall.
"Everyone wants to go into the break with a win, but the manager warned us it would be tough here and unfortunately we couldn't get the result. We certainly have the ability to do it, it's a shame it didn't come out."
Mowbray, meanwhile, has decided not to follow up his interest in Dutch winger Romeo Castelen. The former Feyenoord man was on trial with the club earlier in the summer.