IT is easy to be a captain when things are going well.

When results are good and personal performances are impressive, leading by example is not too much of a challenge.

Things become more difficult in the tough times, so as he reflects on the injury setback that means he will be sidelined for the majority of this month, Middlesbrough skipper George Friend is determined to ensure his frustration does not show.

Yes, he is disappointed at having to undergo surgery this week to repair scar-tissue damage. Yes, he wishes he had been able to spend more time on the pitch in the opening month of the season. But as the leader of the Middlesbrough squad, he will not allow any personal grumbles to affect his wider role.

“I wouldn’t say you have to hide how you’re feeling, but that’s part of being the club captain,” said Friend, who has been struggling with a thigh problem since the final month of last season. “I’d like to think that’s maybe one of the reasons why the gaffer has chosen me, because I can deal with these things.

“I can deal with not playing, I can deal with being injured. Obviously, I find it harder than when I’m playing, but I still want the team and the club to do well, I still want the players to do well. Nothing changes for me like that, the only difference is I’m not able to be with them on the training pitch every day or on the pitch on a Saturday.

“I have my own frustrations, but I don’t feel like I’ve changed too much in terms of my character or leadership or anything like that. I try to do my best every day, and I keep telling myself that it’s the measure of a man when things are going badly. You see the true person when things are going badly. It’s not going badly for me, but I’m having a setback and it’s about trying to encourage everybody to do well because when the team and the club does well, it benefits us all.”

So while he might not be available for selection for Saturday’s trip to Reading, Friend will still be a prominent figure at Boro’s Rockliffe Park training ground this week.

He will be urging those around him to do all they can to help guide Boro out of the bottom half of the table. He will be working with head coach Jonathan Woodgate to ensure morale remains high. And he will be supporting the club’s young contingent, and encouraging them to make sure their voice is heard.

“In terms of the younger players, I certainly think they’ve got more of a voice, and that’s important,” said Friend. “Someone like Dael (Fry), it’s been good for him because he’s been given a bit more responsibility around the place. I also think with the media side, they’ve bigged Dael up a bit more and he’s got that pressure on him now which is good because he’s rising to it and he is such a fantastic player.

“I’d say one of the good things about the changing room is everyone is able to speak their mind. There’s no one that feels in fear of speaking up or anything like that, we’ve got a good balance. A lot of the young boys are really coming out of their shell.

“Even with someone like Pearsy (Aynsley Pears), it’s great to have a young goalkeeper in the fold, and someone who fully deserved his move up from the Under-23s. It’s a similar thing with Hayden (Coulson), Marcus Tavernier is a big character as well. There’s a good group of lads with good characters and good personalities.”