All Eyes On Pontus Jansson Ahead Of Leeds Return

Fans split over what kind of reception former player should receive
09:17, 21 Aug 2019

Anyone who has watched the excellent documentary series Take Us Home: Leeds United will know that Pontus Jansson was a huge character in the dressing room at Elland Road last season.

Take Us Home, produced by Leeds-based film company The City Talking and Eleven Sports and screened on Amazon Prime, follows Marcelo Bielsa's side everywhere throughout the 2018-19 campaign and Jansson, not surprisingly, features prominently.

Tonight, the Sweden international defender makes his first return to Leeds since being sold to Brentford in the summer for around £5.5million.

Leeds fans have spent the past couple of days debating on social media what kind of reception Jansson deserves, but there can be no denying the impact he made during his time at Elland Road.

Eyebrows were raised at his departure six weeks ago, but Bielsa is all about the collective and felt that a man he rated as Leeds' "best player last season" simply had to go.

Jansson's ability to defend, coupled with his ball-playing skills and eye for goal, saw him emerge as one one of the best centre-backs in the Championship since arriving from Torino in the summer of 2016.

Nevertheless, the imposing Swede can be uncompromising and belligerent and infamously defied Bielsa during the final home game of the regular season against Aston Villa.

When the Argentinian head coach ordered that Leeds allow Villa an equaliser from the kick-off following Mateusz Klich's controversial opener, Jansson tried to stop Albert Adomah scoring.

“Jansson didn’t want to obey the indication I gave,” said Bielsa afterwards. “That diminishes my authority and I don’t know what the consequences are when you lose respect from a player. He didn’t want to give up something that we had worked so hard to reach.”

Even in the final episode of Take Us Home, Jansson remains unmoved about the Villa controversy.

At the training ground, Kalvin Phillips asks Jansson whether Leeds should have allowed them to equalise.

"Absolutely not!" is Jansson's response, albeit slightly tongue in cheek.

There were also issues over when Jansson would return to the club after his summer holidays and, in the end, Bielsa decided a parting of the ways was neccessary.

Leeds fans love a cult figure who wears his heart on his sleeve - think the great Billy Bremner to Vinnie Jones to David Batty - and Jansson's fist-pumping to the fans and all-action style saw him enjoy an outstanding debut campaign under Garry Monk.

"Oh, Pontus Jansson's magic, he wears a magic hat, and if you throw a brick at him he'll head the f***er back," was often aired during a season which saw Leeds narrowly miss out on the play-offs.

Despite being in the top six for much of the campaign, Leeds finished seventh and Monk quit Elland Road as Andrea Radrizzani took full control.

The following season saw Leeds began brightly under Thomas Christiansen before fading away. He got sacked and his replacement, Paul Heckingbottom, suffered the same fate a few months later.
But last season, Leeds raised the bar beyond all recognition under Bielsa. Jansson, who started last season on the bench, soon reclaimed his place in the team and helped the Whites to their most memorable season for years.
Jansson returned late for pre-season having featured for Sweden at the World Cup but, when Gaetano Berardi got injured, Jansson was back in the team.

The Swede said of Bielsa's demanding approach during episode two of Take Us Home: "From day one, Marcelo said ‘if you don’t accept what we are going to do you have to leave, you have to find something else’. 

"All the players who are still with us now, they accepted it from day one."

Jansson and captain Liam Cooper forged a fine partnership at the heart of Leeds' defence but they missed out on automatic promotion and failed in the play-offs against Derby.

Jansson was an unused substitute in the second leg at Elland Road, with Bielsa preferring Berardi and Cooper, and the seeds had been sown for his departure.

Despite everything, Jansson should get a fine reception tonight and he remains close friends with the likes of Berardi, Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez.

In episode five of Take Us Home, Jansson, Berardi and Alioski are sat around a table in a coffee shop discussing Leeds' promotion challenge as it enters the final straight. Jansson tells them: "You two, you are my two best friends in the team. But you Bera, you are like my big brother that I’m looking up to and I feel safe when you are around the team. You have changed me as a person also, you know."

Alioski chips in: "Pontus is a special guy.  I see him like a big brother and he brings a lot of spirit."  

Berardi adds: "I could see at the beginning he was a really good guy.  That’s why I tried from the beginning to help him. Now, I will go whole way with him."

Of course, Leeds did not go the whole way and are now in their 16th successive year outside of the top flight.

Both parties have since moved on and Jansson has been made captain at Brentford while on-loan Brighton defender Ben White looks an astute replacement for him at Leeds.

Regardless of the outcome this evening, even Bielsa admitted yesterday that Jansson's efforts in the white jersey should be recognised.

“He deserves to be received with the right reception for him,” said Bielsa of Jansson. “He was the best player of the team last season. I cannot talk about the previous years because I wasn’t working with him but he did a high level last season. 

“I appreciate what he gave to the team. I think that the fans are going to be fair and they are going to recognise what Jansson did here for the club.”

Sporting Calendar