George Friend, from North Devon, appeared in around forty league and cup games for Exeter City before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers at the age of twenty. He then went on to enjoy a long professional career with Doncaster Rovers, Birmingham City and - in particular - Middlesbrough for whom he played nearly 300 times. George was a member of the Exeter City team which returned to the Football League in 2008.
Playing for City’s youth team between 2004 and 2006 George remained at school in North Devon to complete his A levels whilst also having a short loan spell at Tiverton Town. After signing professionally towards the end of his studies George made his first-team debut at Forest Green Rovers in April 2006 and, gaining further experience with Team Bath on loan, appeared twice more during 2006/07.
George properly broke into the Grecains’ first team in the following season when he played in 35 league and cup games culminating in both play-off semi-finals against Torquay United and the Wembley victory over Cambridge United. With City back in the Football League, George appeared in the club’s opening League One fixtures before signing for Wolverhampton Wanderers on 1 September 2008 for an initial £350,000 fee.
Quickly making his Wolves debut at Swansea in October 2008, George made six Championship appearances during his first season in the Midlands. Thereafter George’s Molineux career stalled and after just one further appearance - together with loans to Millwall, Southend and Scunthorpe - returned to St James’ Park on a temporary basis in March 2010.
With City not safe from relegation, George reappeared in Exeter’s colours against Oldham on 6 March 2010 and featured thirteen times - scoring once - as the club eventually finished 18th in League One.
George left Wolves soon afterwards and, following two seasons at Doncaster Rovers where he became captain, moved to Middlesbrough for a reported £100,000 fee in July 2012. Appearing in 39 league and cup games during his first campaign at the Riverside George never looked back as in subsequent seasons he played in 43, 48 and 45 competitive fixtures. By this time George had become a key member of the Boro’ team which returned to Premier League in May 2016 and, whilst not featuring quite so frequently, made twenty-four top-flight appearances during 2016/17 whilst the club was immediately relegated.
Back in Championship George added nearly a hundred appearances to his Middlesbrough tally before moving to Birmingham City in August 2020 having played 299 league, cup and play-off games during his eight years on Teesside. Now just short of his 33rd birthday George never really established himself as a first-teamer at St Andrew's and, having made 28 league and cup appearances in 2020/21, was now often affected by injury to the extent he only played 24 times over the following two seasons. In January 2023 it was reported that George was helping with match-day analysis and coaching as he prepared for UEFA coaching qualifications.
George was released by Birmingham at the end of 2022/23 by which time he had made nearly 500 professional appearances for his various clubs. His final game for Birmingham was at Millwall on 18 April 2023 before he later agreed a one-year contract with Bristol Rovers ahead of 2023/24.
League 53 (play-offs 3); Cups 3 (56)