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George Friend begins a new chapter as Director of Football at Bristol Rovers

George Friend is ending an impressive 19-year playing career and beginning a new chapter as Director of Football at Bristol Rovers.

The 36-year-old signed for the League One side in July 2023 and spent his final season as a player there, but Friend’s history with Bristol Rovers reaches back to his childhood. The former defender played for the club at youth level alongside a teammate he would later reunite with: current Pirates winger Scott Sinclair.

Friend also counts Bristol manager Matt Taylor among his previous teammates. The duo were part of the squad that propelled Exeter City to promotion in 2008, with a Conference playoff final win over Cambridge United securing the club a place in League Two after five years of absence from the Football League.

Following that success, Friend secured a contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2008, where he would make his Premier League debut. In 2010, Championship club Doncaster Rovers signed the left-back, awarding him the captain’s armband in the 2011/12 season.

Friend’s next move to Middlesbrough in 2012 marked the beginning of an eight-year spell that saw the talented defender become a firm fan favourite — and eventual captain — thanks to his consistently strong performances on the pitch. The UEFA A Licence holder was a key member of the 2015/16 Championship-winning team that took Middlesbrough back into the Premier League for the first time since its 2009 relegation.

In addition to his achievements on the pitch, Friend is an accomplished business owner with two thriving companies, one of which offers expert financial planning services to elite athletes and sports professionals.

His football and business acumen is complemented by a degree in Sports Broadcasting and Journalism, as well as qualifications in talent identification and scouting. Friend also has experience in coaching, having held a dual player-coach role with Birmingham City.

The former defender’s new role with Bristol Rovers will see him work with a rejuvenated recruitment department, with Chief Scout Chris Spendlove recently promoted to Head of Recruitment and Adam Mahoney taking up the Head of Data and Analysis position.

With 12 permanently contracted players set to be out of contract this summer, the gears are in motion at the club as its recruitment team looks ahead to the coming season.

Commenting on the appointments, Manager Matt Taylor said: “There is a lot of work to do ahead of the summer, and the team are already working tirelessly to ensure that we attract the right players to the club.”

Friend will play a key role as the Pirates seek to strengthen their squad. Commenting in a statement issued by Bristol Rovers, he said:

“I now remain determined and ambitious to succeed in my role here at Rovers. It is where I started my footballing journey as a youngster, and it feels very apt that it’s where I will finish playing.

“I have built some strong relationships here and I believe in the club, the people, and the area.”

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