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Emnes’ focus is back on football
TONY MOWBRAY has spent the majority of the summer searching for a new centre-forward, but on the evidence of Middlesbrough’s pre-season programme, perhaps the answer to his attacking problems was under his nose all along.
Marvin Emnes was Boro’s forgotten man for most of last term, with some difficult personal issues restricting his involvement and, by his own admission, resulting in him turning his attention away from football.
Those issues are now resolved, and after making just 19 Championship starts last season, the Dutchman is set to be a key member of Mowbray’s preferred starting XI in the next nine months.
“It’s nice to be able to draw a line under everything that has happened and move forward now,” said Emnes, who partnered Lukas Jutkiewicz in attack as Boro suffered a 2-1 defeat in their opening Championship fixture against Leicester at the weekend. “Last season, there wasn’t a lot going on, on the pitch, it was more off the pitch instead.
“That’s in the past now though. I am just thinking about this season now and want to concentrate on football and nothing else.
“I have had a good summer. I went back to see my family, and it’s always good when you see your family. It’s always good to be happy. I have my confidence back now, and that is important for my game.”
Rather than reflecting on Emnes’ peripheral performances last season, Mowbray has spent the summer reminiscing about the striker’s displays in the previous campaign.
Back then, the 25-year-old netted 14 Championship goals to finish as Boro’s leading scorer and attract the attention of a number of top-flight suitors.
Swansea City had a succession of bids turned down over the course of a six-month period, and having fought to keep Emnes at the Riverside, Mowbray is hoping his faith will prove justified.
Emnes is equally determined to rediscover his best form, and is looking forward to playing football with a smile on his face now his personal situation has improved.
“I think it’s going to be a season where I’m going to enjoy myself again,” he said.
“I just want to play football, and for a number of reasons, last season was not the best.
“The season before was a great season, and hopefully this will be a season where I show myself at my best again. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself – I just want to show what I can do and enjoy football again.
“I’ve had some nice games in pre-season, and there are players around me who want to play football as well. If you are surrounded by players who want to play football, then you are going to play better as well.
Hopefully, I will show that on the pitch.”
Boro certainly need Emnes to hit top gear after their attempts to add to their attacking resources in the close season failed to come to fruition.
There is every chance at least one new striker will arrive before the transfer window closes at the end of next month, but for now, the Teessiders’ attacking options effectively revolve around Emnes, Jutkiewicz and the inexperienced Curtis Main.
At the moment, none of the trio can claim to be the guaranteed 20-goals-a-season striker that most Championship managers claim to need if promotion is to be secured.
Jutkiewicz is the more natural centre-forward, but Emnes does not feel his willingness to drift around and link midfield with attack should detract from his ability to find the back of the net, assuming of course he is asked to play in a prominent attacking role for the majority of the campaign.
Indeed, having scored three pre-season goals in matches against Morecambe and Bordeaux, the former Sparta Rotterdam trainee, who cost £3.2m when Gareth Southgate brought him to England in 2008, is confident he will not have to wait long for his first competitive goal.
“Last season was a tough season, but even in the hard times, I still scored some goals,” he said. “You need your team-mates to play well as well, but right through pre-season we have playing together nicely and hopefully that will continue.
“You always have to believe in yourself and I do that. If you don’t believe in yourself, things will go wrong. The first thing is to believe in yourself, then you have to believe in other people, your team-mates.
You have to have confidence in your own ability and tell yourself, ‘I can do it, I can do it’. I’ve never lost that.”
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