IN TWO years at Elland Road, Pontus Jansson admits he’s seen two sides to Leeds United.
The Swede’s first year at LS11 almost led to United finishing in the play-offs under Garry Monk. Last season – in which Leeds finished 13th – was rather less satisfactory.
Under Marcelo Bielsa, Jansson may be about to experience his best year yet at Leeds, with the Swede confident United are also getting the best of Pontus Jansson and a more mature defender in return.
Jansson has achieved near-cult hero status quickly at Leeds with the defender a firm fans’ favourite and regularly cheered in victory with the ‘brick-heading’ defender passionately embracing his supporters with a Leeds salute.
The centre-back’s unbeaten side already have four Championship victories to savour as part of the current campaign though somewhat toned down celebrations on Jansson’s part have been by design.
Not that the passion the defender feels for his club has waned, with the 27-year-old loving life at Leeds who turned down a £10m bid for his services from Russian club Krasnodar earlier this month.
Three weeks later, Jansson now hopes United will reap the rewards of the defender’s best season yet with a first World Cup appearance with Sweden leading to a spurt of maturity for a defender determined to put side before self.
The Swede hopes he will stay in the spotlight in his third season at Leeds – but for his performances and team ethic on the pitch as opposed to any wild post-match celebrations. Jansson told the YEP: “I felt like this summer I got three or four years older in how I behave, how I am as a person and as a team-mate, as a leader in this group and even as a leader in the national team.I grew a lot.
“The World Cup was a good experience for me and when you are getting older you see things in another way and I think I am getting older now.
“I know that I am a person that people like to talk about – some people like me and some people hate me and it’s no difference with me. I am happy that people here in Leeds still love me and I try to do my best so that they keep loving me.
“The celebration thing, that is just a small thing, and I don’t want to be the main man in every moment.
“Of course I will always be myself and I love the connection with the fans and that’s part of the game. But sometimes when you are getting older you see things from another side and another perspective.
“When I was young, I always thought about myself and put myself in the zone.
“Now I want to be a good team mate and good leader for this team. Maybe if we go to the Premier League, then I will do the celebration in the last game.”
Akin to the defender’s newfound maturity, celebrations following last weekend’s 3-0 win at Norwich City were somewhat low key.
The victory left United top of the Championship and Jansson admits he has been hugely impressed with how head coach Bielsa has seemingly transformed the capabilities of the Leeds squad.
Jansson reasoned: “When we started against Stoke I was on the bench as I had only been training with the guys with three or four days.
“I felt a bit shocked sitting on the bench and seeing that Leeds United had almost the same players as last year.
“So that says it all about Marcelo and his staff what they have built and what they are building in this team and about the spirit that they have built.
“When I came back from vacation in the summer, it felt like I had signed for a new club.
“Everything was new, we had a lot of staff, new people and everything was so more professional.
“Everything has been good since day one and I have worked hard, exactly how the guys have done too.
“Even in the World Cup, I think we had 45 days together and I worked hard every day to prepare for playing every game.
“Marcelo then wanted me to have three weeks off but I only took one week so I started to train directly with myself and with my older team in Sweden - Malmo, to stay in good shape and I came back fit.
“I’m in a little different role maybe from last year. I want to be a leader and a good team mate and help my team in every area in every moment of the game.
“If I look at myself individually, I lost 4kg since last year so I am just stronger and faster and I recover more quickly now from last year.”
Just three days after Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup loss to Preston, Jansson is already raring to go for Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash with Middlesbrough.
Victory would send Leeds three points clear – but if Jansson has his way the ultimate celebration will be saved until May.
“Since the first day, I have said that wanting to go to the Premier League has been the dream and I also said that I want to do it with Leeds. That’s still my dream and I really want to do it,” said Jansson.
“This is my second home. I love every moment and every minute of playing for Leeds United and it has been like that for every day in this two years.
“I am happy, so happy to be here and you could see even when I didn’t play the first two or three games, when we scored I was the happiest person on the bench and celebrated the most.
“I haven’t done that for two or three years but now I am older and more experienced. I want the team to win and that’s my only perspective.”