Most footballers dream of getting on the pitch, shooting and hitting the back of the net. Or, chasing down an opponent who's bearing down on goal and taking the ball from them.

Middlesbrough defender George Friend is no different. However, it's not uncommon for the former Doncaster Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Exeter City man to also think about sand, spikes and getting the ball over the net, for he also has a huge passion for volleyball.

After closer inspection, it turns out Friend's secret passion comes from within his household.

"My interest [for volleyball] comes from my wife Kerry and her family. Prior to the Olympics, Kerry represented Great Britain in women's volleyball, so she's played at a pretty high level," he explains.

"I went on a couple of family holidays and soon had to get used to the rules of the game to join in. I'm ultra competitive but even though I quickly got involved I am no where near as good as her.

"I can beat her one-on-one but that doesn't really use much skill, it's just a lot of running around. She's a lot better than I am. Kerry's mum played for Scotland and her dad played for Great Britain so they're a proper volleyball family.

"I didn't realise all the different types of passing and serving, I had no idea at first. That was one thing that opened up my eyes and I still can't do them very well. Kerry and her family are always trying to teach me. Most people think you just pass it over but it's a very skilful sport."

It's Friend's ability to "run around" that has quickly endeared him to the Boro faithful. A tireless worker, the Devon-born player has fitted in well at the Riverside following his summer move from Doncaster.

Away from football, though, he has well and truly caught the volleyball bug. Just beware if you're ever asked to play against him while on holiday, you could be getting hustled.

"I am so enthusiastic about volleyball and it's probably a bit annoying because Kerry isn't so any more. She can just turn up and play. I look forward to it so much, and then I am awful.

"When we went on our first holiday as a couple we used to take on all of the Russian and Polish tourists on the beach. It was quite funny. We like an active holiday but it gets quite serious sometimes.

"Kerry has got a couple of injuries so plays volleyball as more of a hobby now. She has played for a couple of indoor teams but she's a beach volleyball player really. She plays in the summer in all of the big English tournaments.

"I am so competitive, and even when Kerry just wants to relax I want to head down to the courts on the beach in the morning to take on all of the guys in their speedos!"

Like most of his colleagues, Friend wants to take on the best players in football in the Premier League.

When it comes to volleyball, though, the 25-year-old is wary of taking on the world's finest.

"I've never played them but the Brazilians are supposed to be up there. When we went to LA we went down to Hermosa Beach, that's where all of the volleyball happens, they were a different level. I didn't want join in then, they were just too good. The Americans are pretty good as well.

"In the European resorts you normally find yourselves playing against a Russian or a Polish pair. They take it very seriously.

"They don't like it because they don't think Kerry is going to offer much and then suddenly she comes up with some pretty good hits and shots, I'm just running around. It's great fun.

"Sometimes when it comes to my feet and I have to rescue it with my feet for a volley or something they are quite surprised - but I'm not even very good at that.

"Sometimes there is a huge language barrier so there's a bit of cheating going on as well I think, they add a few more points on. They take it seriously, there's not much small talk."

Not surprisingly, the Friend family enjoyed watching both the volleyball and beach volleyball at this summer's London Olympics.

And their viewing wasn't restricted to just the television, either.

"We loved watching the Olympics. Kerry's friends were competing in the Games and she went down to London to see them.

"It was great to see them play but I couldn't go because of football. Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin did really well in the beach volleyball and generated some great publicity.

"There's not that much on TV usually but some of the English beach tournaments are televised. We don't watch that much indoor."

The defender is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury but, prior to that, he had appeared in the majority of Boro's npower Championship matches this term.

Tony Mowbray's men were on a good run, too, and hit the summit of the division before three losses in the last four left them sitting fourth.

He's settled into the club well but not many of his team-mates know about his secret passion yet, and he hasn't tried to introduce volleyball into training, although he would obviously be open to that.

"Only Juke [Lukas Jutkiewicz] knows about volleyball really, I think his sister plays a bit and she knew Kerry. I've kept it quite quiet at the moment but no doubt this article is going to kill me!

"The lads at Doncaster used to get on me a bit about it. They used to say things like, going on holiday was more for volleyball than anything else or you're looking forward to the volleyball season rather than the football season - that's not true, I look forward to them both the same.

"I'd love it if we went somewhere that had a court [for training]. You know who I think would be good, big Jayson Leutwiler [Middlesbrough goalkeeper]. He's European, he's really tall, and I think most Europeans are quite good anyway. I think Emmanuel Ledesma and Julio Arca will be pretty good too, because they're South American.

"I've heard there's a beach at Whitby and Saltburn but I don't think they have courts. There are a few indoor clubs in the North East but beach volleyball is better.

"You can't beat North Devon beaches. That's where I am from and I love it."

The end of the football season may be some way off, but Friend is already looking forward to the summer.

And not just for a potential Premier League promotion party.

"We fancy Australia this year. Maybe we could get a game on Bondi beach. Maybe Scott McDonald could hook us up, but he's not the tallest - maybe Rhys Williams might be better.

"I prefer beach volleyball because there are just two of you and you get a lot of touches. Maybe if we lived in a better country I might take it up a bit more."

At the moment, it's another sport that he is concentrating on, and to that end, promotion would be the perfect warm-up for a summer of spiking and digging.

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