Friend Foundation in Loftus
By Robert Nichols
Tuesday 15 Oct 2019 18:16:00
Browse all Interviews articles
Boro captain George Friend cut the ribbon on an exciting new outreach project for MFC Foundation. The official launch of MFC Foundation charity setting up an office in Loftus was in October kick starting programmes working throughout East Cleveland. Taking the badge out into the community.

East Cleveland is a region that has suffered more than its fair share of setbacks in the last few years. Now Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation is taking root in the area, determined to help, determined to make a difference in the very fabric of society. 

Moving into the old Co-Op building on Loftus High Street, MFC Foundation will use this as a base to reach out to many areas of the community, on a social and practical level. 

It won’t just be through football, there will be games of course, but the Foundation will be addressing issues surrounding mental health, wellbeing, isolation, as well as working with primary and secondary schools in the area.

I spoke to Boro captain George Friend about MFC Foundation laying down roots in Loftus and East Cleveland.

George Friend Interview

Fly: George the first time I ever spoke with you was when you launched MFC Foundation Kicks programme at Hemlington. You had not long since joined Boro at that time; you must have seen a lot of the important work of the Foundation with the community over the years.

GF: Yes I have seen it grow but I have also seen the impact it has had on the area and certain individuals as well which has been great and to witness first hand the improvements its made to peoples lives and their areas, local communities, is fantastic. That is the whole reason for the foundation to help and support the local community using the Boro badge which has so much kudos.

Fly: Sometimes facilities and opportunities might seem to be behind a closed door to people but the badge helps open it.

GF: Yes. Everyone has got that unity because of the club, that is one thing I noticed as soon as I came here. The town isn't built around the club but it certainly has a huge effect. For young people especially they can identify with the Boro badge, football, sport and then there is a gateway to improving their lives and to improving the local area.

Fly: We heard in a presentation how 30 kids immediately signed up to one of the programmes, Kicks.

GF: Yes. I think Kicks and Teamtalk are just fantastic initiatives and programmes set up by the Foundation. I have seen them first hand and how much they can change peoples lives and it is fantastic to come all the way out here. I say all the way out but it is not that far but it is somewhere that might have been neglected in the past and hopefully it will have a positive impact on East Cleveland as well.

George Friend bus

Fly: You have seen so many people and different generations coming out to this official opening today. It underlines the power of the Boro badge and shows the possibilities I suppose.

GF: Yes and that is the great thing about the Foundation it doesn't just have a certain target age range it covers from whether you are a young child right the way through to working and retiring age. It is the whole community and that is what is important and it genuinely helps people.

Fly: There is the Stepping Up programme that provides a bridge between Primary and Secondary schools. You come from a rural area of Devon. Did you have to go quite a long way to go to senior school?

GF: Yes of course, yes. There was quite a lot of travelling involved and changing of locations and things.

Fly: And maybe leaving a lot of friends behind and going to somewhere without the familiar faces. You might not have known anyone.

GF: No not at all and we didn't have anything like that as a support system. It is a daunting time, I have children of my own and I know when they get to that age of moving schools it will be hard for them so like I said before it is supporting every age group but also looking at what is actually needed. It is not just throwing money at any initiative it is actually targeting things that might need a bit of help and then really hitting home with that.

Fly: There might be different needs here to Middlesbrough.

GF: Yes of course as every area is slightly different but as a whole the impact that the Foundation has helps the whole of the Teesside, Cleveland community, wherever and it will benefit.

Fly: You are the club captain would you see this as one of your roles going out into the community?

GF: I would actually say that the players now all do their bit and that is part of the club. They allow each player to go out and it is not just forcing them to do it, players want to do it and they want to get involved. Pretty much any of the team could have come today and they realise the impact the Foundation has. Helena, who runs it, gave us all a presentation at the start of the season. So the whole first team are aware of it and what it can do in the area. Obviously, I don't know if it is the captain side but it is probably the length that I have been here. It perhaps resonates a bit more for me because of the length of time I have been here and the journey I have been on, not just on the pitch but with the Foundation. I am really proud to be part of the Foundation and see its good work.

Fly: Going out into the community and speaking to people does it make you feel even more proud to be captain of the football club?

GF: Yes of course. I have always been proud to play for Middlesbrough and do my part in anyway I can so I think I have always tried to be as much of a leader as I can. For me it is a bit of a title but I am obviously proud to have that title and proud that the manager has that confidence in me as well.

Fly: Sadly, at the moment you are injured. This gives you a focus perhaps at a time when you must be disappointed to be not playing in what is a new era.

GF: Yes, I think that is the biggest disappointment apart from not being able to play is that I can't play at a time when the club is changing directions. And it is exciting times I think everyone would agree. It is a bit of a double hit because you can't play and you can't be part of it but I know there is a future and there is a chance of getting back to play under this new regime/coaching staff and management of course. So, I look forward to that and it gives me a target, and a goal and even more fight to make sure I get back.

Fly: Ironic you got back to fitness but then got injured again playing at Blackburn against Tony Mowbray, the manager that brought you here for £100 000 wasn't it?

GF: I think so yes, something like that.

Fly: And watching from the stands it looked as if you were passing on your experience in that game as we have a few younger players now.

GF: Yes. Tony Mowbray is one of the biggest reasons I am at Middlesbrough because he obviously signed me but it wasn't just that I had a few other options at the time. He took me round the training ground and the area and straight away I didn't even bother going to look at the other clubs because I knew I wanted to sign for Middlesbrough. I don't know if a lot of people know that but that was a big part of it. Then to play for him as well he gave me a lot of freedom which I feel helped my relationship with the fans and set off my career at Middlesbrough because of his tutelage and of how good he is as a person, as a man. Yes he has been fantastic, so yes it was ironic that I got injured there and I was playing against him but I am obviously very thankful to him and I hope that the manager now can lead us forward and have success himself with Middlesbrough as well.

Fly: Yes, Jonathan Woodgate is another local man who knows all about Teesside and another centre back. He is taking us in another direction so it should be exciting times.

GF: Yes, the training is superb. He is an excellent coach. He is an incredible man-manager and his knowledge of the game and his experiences in the game are superb. So, everything there is going for him and for us and hopefully our good performances at the start of the season will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.


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