The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 20 of 25
The story of Middlesbrough’s Marvin Emnes and his time in British football so far is a three-part saga. And the third and current part is so successful at the time of writing that the as-yet unwritten fourth may concern his glorious return to the Premier League. Few could have seen it coming during the first period of his time with Boro.
Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough)
I can split my experience of Emnes into the same three very separate parts. Let’s begin at the beginning. Boro fan and Miniboro editor Steve Welsh recently told The Two Unfortunates that Emnes struggled to make an impact at first.
“He was originally referred to as ‘one for the future’ and more worryingly as ‘a project'”, said Welsh. “But his prolonged absence from the first team was baffling, especially given his £3.2 million price tag. Something didn’t quite add up in those early days and “Project Emnes” became an increasingly detached figure, like some kind of Anglo-Dutch experiment that had been shelved due to a shortfall in research grants or government funding.”
My own memory of Emnes being blooded in the top flight came when Boro fell to a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal in April 2009. Boro’s stand-out player that day was defender Matthew Bates, playing just in front of the back four. Nothing much happened for the visitors further upfield than that. Despite this, Emnes was only introduced in the 86th minute. “One for the future” seemed about right.
“If you fast forward to Gordon Strachan’s era things got even worse”, recalled Welsh. “He was cruelly given just 45 mins to impress his new boss, but Wee Gordon had already made his mind up, opting to replace him with serial journeyman Marcus Bent, which might give you an idea as to the ‘total football’ that was on offer at the time.”
Then things got interesting. Emnes was farmed out on loan to Swansea City and it was in the all-white of the Swans that I saw him again. This time it was on television rather than in the flesh and he was scoring a rather splendid goal in the cauldron of the south Wales derby. Here it is…
Suddenly that £3.2million didn’t look quite so poorly spent. Of course, it was Swansea that were reaping the benefit of his talent rather than Boro but at least there was finally evidence of why the Teessiders had splashed out to secure his signature.
“His brief loan spell at Swansea seemed to be the making of him”, said Welsh. “He toughened up, found his touch and most importantly for him and us, started scoring goals. When he returned people were still sceptical, a lot of people felt we should cash in while we had the chance, and that these little glimpses of quality were just a flash in the pan. But thankfully he proved a lot of people (myself included) wrong and he seems to be revelling in the style of football Mowbray is trying to get us to play.”
This is where the third and current part of the Emnes saga comes into play. He started this season with a bang, scoring six times in Boro’s opening four games to establish himself as a key man. This is where Welsh worries slightly.
“My only concern is that we do tend to rely quite heavily on him now — clubs have been quick to realise that a lot of our best stuff goes through him, which means he gets a lot of close attention these days. But as long as the rest of the team are pulling their weight and supporting him, I don’t see any reason why his form can’t continue, certainly at this level if not higher.”
That’s the £3.2million question now. Such a sum is worth a gamble when a Premier League team is aiming to retain its top flight status but it is also a lot of money for a Championship player. Marvin Emnes has – like Boro, who have so far won the highest number of Championship points in the 2011 calendar year – just over four months to prove that he is worthy of playing at the highest level. If he can achieve that goal, Boro may just be back in the big time.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.