NOEL Whelan believes Leeds United are capable of beating any team in their division and is urging the Whites to sign Pontus Jansson on a permanent deal to maintain the club’s recent progress.
Sixth-placed Leeds face their toughest test of the Championship season so far on Sunday when leaders Newcastle United travel to Elland Road for a lunch-time kick off that will be screened live on Sky (kick-off 1.15pm).
The Whites approach the game having won seven of their last 10 league games and Whelan believes Leeds have every chance of further enhancing that impressive recent record by making it eight wins out of 11 against the Magpies.
Furthermore, the former Whites striker and BBC Radio Leeds pundit believes Leeds head coach Garry Monk now has a side that is capable of beating any other team in the second tier of English football.
But Swedish centre-back Jansson has undoubtedly been crucial to United’s recent progress and Whelan says turning his loan switch into a permanent deal in January is of paramount importance.
Jansson joined Leeds on a season-long loan from Italian Serie A club Torino in the summer and Leeds have an option to buy the six-foot-five defender for a fee in excess of £3m once the 25-year-old completes his 20th appearance.
Sunday’s outing against the Magpies will present Jansson’s 13th outing for the Whites and Leeds are said to be confident that their agreement with Torino to take Jansson full-time is binding and watertight. Nevertheless, the Swedish international’s fine form for Leeds has already alerted Premier League interest with Watford said to be among the defender’s admirers.
Whelan is another big admirer of the tough tackling star’s attributes – with the former striker believing anything near £3m to be a small price to pay to secure the Swede’s services long-term.
“I think everything needs to be put in place now,” said Whelan.
“We need to be talking to him and we need to be sorting out contracts.
“The fans love him and the players have benefited from him being in the side so I think the club needs to put their hand in their pocket pretty deep and get this one signed up.
“£3m these days is not a lot of money and you are getting a lot of player for that.
“You have got to put it into perspective and £3m these days is next to nothing – it’s a drop in the ocean but what you are getting is very, very good player so in the long term £3m is a very good business deal for what you are getting.”
Jansson is excelling for both club and country at present and the defender played the full 90 minutes of Sweden’s friendly in Hungary on Tuesday, a game Janne Andersson’s side won 2-0.
The centre-back also came on as an 87th-minute substitute in last Friday’s World Cup qualifier in France.
Striker Chris Wood has also been busy on international duty with the 24-year-old playing two full 90 minutes in World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia – on Saturday morning and then Tuesday morning.
Defensive midfielder Eunan O’Kane was also called up to represent the Republic Of Ireland during the international break but the 26-year-old flew back home early with a groin injury.
Stuart Dallas had also been selected to represent Northern Ireland but Dallas also returned to Leeds to recover from a calf injury.
Leeds head coach Monk is likely to provide an update on both at this afternoon’s pre-match press conference at Thorp Arch,
Captain Liam Bridcutt will likely miss the game, with the 27-year-old still on the comeback trail having fractured a bone in his foot in the 2-1 Championship win at home to Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday, September 13.
Bridcutt’s return to training is imminent but the midfielder will likely play for United’s development side before returning to the first team.
Young right-back Lewie Coyle also remains sidelined with a knee injury but left- back Tyler Denton returned to training this week having recovered from damage to his ankle ligaments.
For Newcastle, Jonjo Shelvey will be available after pleading not guilty to a charge from the Football Association of using abusive language towards an opponent that included reference to ethnicity, race or nationality and requested a personal hearing. But with or without Shelvey, Whelan has plenty of confidence in Leeds’ prospects of downing the Magpies at Elland Road.
“I think Leeds, on their day, can beat any team in the Championship and they proved that against Norwich,” said Whelan.
“They are no mugs – they played their full team and away from home we put on a really good display to get the win and three points that we took back with us.
“Leeds are sitting where there are in a position in the league because they deserve it.
“At the moment we are sixth, we want to stay there and we want to climb higher.”