GEORGE FRIEND believes modern-day full backs like Luke Shaw are good for the game.
Shaw, Southampton’s 18-year-old attacking left back, was this week named in England’s squad for the World Cup in Brazil.
A left back himself with Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship, Friend has been impressed by Shaw’s progress. And, at just 26, he has even seen a change in what is expected of full backs during his own career.
“It’s definitely evolved,” said Friend, from Chittlehampton. “It’s changed for the good. The game is getting more and more athletic and full back is one of the most athletic and demanding positions on the pitch.
“You look at the very top and at Barcelona their full backs play like wingers.
“I try to play like that because I love going forward, but this season I’ve really had to knuckle down because the manager wanted me to be more of a defensive left back.
“You have to do that part but the role has definitely changed from your classic flat back four.
“The full backs seem to be pushing high up the pitch and a centre midfielder sitting in – like Steven Gerrard does for Liverpool – allows the full backs to push up even further.”
Friend wanted England manager Roy Hodgson to pick experienced Chelsea left back Ashley Cole but understood why he went for Shaw instead.
“He’s a real confident and attacking full back, which is excellent,” said Friend.
“I don’t think he’s got the experience or passing ability of Leighton Baines (the other left back in the squad) or the set-piece ability but he offers something different and that’s a plus.
“He’s brilliant one-on-one – he’s small and hard to get past – and he’ll have so much energy.
“I can see why Roy’s taken him and it’s brilliant for the guy – he’s going to have the experience of his life.”