Marvin Emnes all smiles as Tony Mowbray helps Boro flourish

The first thing you notice when face to face with Middlesbrough striker Marvin Emnes is the smile.

He carries a near-permanent full-on grin, capped by a glint of gold, that suggests a man happy with his lot.

Fifteen goals in 37 appearances have propelled Boro into the promotion mix this term, and established the forward as a major part of Tony Mowbray's plans.

Yet it has not always been that way for the 23-year-old at the Riverside.

Under the former Celtic and Southampton boss Gordon Strachan, Emnes made just five outings in 11 months to leave his future in doubt.

There was little to smile about.

"It didn't work out all," Emnes told BBC Late Kick Off. "It was a different manager, different rules, and from that day it was hard times for me.

"I didn't play, I wasn't involved in the squad, and there are always things going on in your head like 'What am I doing here?' and if I'm not playing why can't I go on loan?"

"I was waiting for my chance, he left the club, and it happened, it was my time again."

Brought to Boro from hometown club Sparta Rotterdam for £3.2m in July 2008, Emnes made just four starts in his debut season under Gareth Southgate, as Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League.

He began the following season as a regular fixture in the Championship but when Strachan replaced Southgate in October 2009, things soon turned sour.

After months on the sidelines, and having been told he was surplus to requirements, Emnes was shipped out to Championship rivals Swansea City and returned to first-team football after close to seven months away.

Under Brendan Rodgers the Rotterdam-born forward was rejuvenated, scoring twice in five games including a priceless winner in the South Wales derby at Cardiff City.

"Swansea was a great club, the manager is great, the players are great, and I had a good feeling again," Emnes added.

"If you have a good feeling and play alongside good players you enjoy yourself and push yourself further.

"It's always nice to score in derbies and the Cardiff-Swansea game was crazy."

Such was the impact made that when Strachan was replaced by Mowbray during the Dutchman's stay at the Liberty Stadium, the new boss had already set out to restore him to the squad.

"It was a difficult time, I was only there for a month but I'd played games and scored goals, and I was going back to a club where I'd had a hard time," Emnes said.

"Tony used to coach at West Bromwich Albion and I knew a few players from there so I spoke to them about his style and it sounded good to me.

"Swansea wanted me to stay longer but Tony wanted me to stay here and help them to win the league, and I just wanted to play games."

Mowbray's faith in Emnes has paid off this term, particularly following the departure of Leroy Lita at the beginning of the season.

His firepower has made him a target for the Swans and Wolves throughout the campaign, and with 13 games remaining he and the club are plotting a top-flight return after three seasons away.

"This is a season that I have played a lot, I've got my goals, and it's good for the fans, it's good for the club," Emnes said.

"We play well as a team, we fight for each other and that is the secret.

"If we keep winning games, there's a chance for us to go up, either through the play-offs or straight up.

"That's what we want, we have been in the Championship long enough, it's time to go into the Premier League."

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