George Friend: Birmingham City defender stars again v Bristol City proving he is key to recent rival

The Blues kept their third clean-sheet in four games with the win over Bristol City

Veteran Blues centre-back George Friend was in fine form once again on Tuesday evening as Birmingham City knocked off Bristol City 3-0 at St Andrew’s.

The 34-year-old has made six appearances this season and in those, Birmingham have only found themselves on the end of one defeat - the narrow 1-0 loss to West Brom at the Hawthorns.

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Lee Bowyer’s men have also only conceded two goals in the time Friend has been on the pitch - a defensive record as good as any in the division.

This isn’t to say Birmingham’s recent mini-revival is all down to the former Middlesbrough man but he’s certainly played his part and a big one at that.

It would have been easy for a player at the stage in his career that Friend finds himself at to sulk during the opening two months when he wasn’t getting the minutes, to come into the side after so long and not give his all.

But he, like others such as Riley McGree, have shown incredible professionalism off of the pitch and backed that up with fantastic performances on it. He has epitomised what it is to be a professional footballer at this level and for that, Blues fans have grown increasingly fond of him.

Josh Coburn (L) of Middlesbrough in action with George Friend of Birmingham City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Birmingham City at Riverside Stadium

Speaking to BluesTV after the game, Friend said: “It was a really good night.”

“Pleased that we’ve kept this run going and a clean sheet is massive - we’ll look forward to Saturday now.”

Also, staying true to the teammate that he is, he was quick to deflect any mention of his own personal performance and was more concerned with giving the whole eleven the credit they deserved.

“I felt good. There were a few moments I could have done better but anyone could have got man-of-the-match tonight, there was some great performances.

“I’m really pleased for the lads scoring their goals and another clean-sheet for the lads at the back and Matija in goal. An excellent team performance.

“It’s great to see anyone score but I love it when one of your strikers gets a goal. I thought Troy as well, he didn’t get a goal but he linked up so well. He was strong and led the line well - some great performances tonight.

“Sometimes it’s a bit of luck but credit to the lads, it’s the whole squad, the coaching staff - everyone’s realised where we needed to improve. Everyone has come in and done well with it, so, it doesn’t really matter who’s playing now, the lads know what they’ve got to do - win the personal battles and that’s what’s important.”

Friend’s role will be increasingly important this Saturday when Reading are the visitors to St Andrew’s.

Dion Sanderson was replaced with a hip injury at half-time in the win over Bristol City and with Kristian Pedersen facing a spell on the sidelines, the Blues are down to the bare bones.

If the boys that suit up on Saturday can reflect the attitude and commitment shown by that man Friend, though, it’s fair to say they will be just fine moving forward.