Pontus Jansson warned the Championship that Leeds United were back in a winning frame of mind and thanked Thomas Christiansen for the “wake-up call” of dropping him earlier in the season after his header inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Norwich City.
Jansson struck for the second time in two home games on Saturday to push Leeds to within a point of the play-off positions and then admitted that Christiansen’s bold decision to leave him out of a game at Bristol City in October had helped him overcome a loss of form.
United’s head coach omitted the centre-back from a 3-0 win at Ashton Gate, relegating the Sweden international to the bench in the wake of several poor results, but Jansson’s recent resurgence has coincided with a run of performances which have revitalised the club’s season after a sharp dip.
Leeds are on the tails of sixth-placed Sheffield United and fifth-placed Aston Villa after beating Norwich at Elland Road and Christiansen’s squad will spend Christmas Day in the play-off zone if they claim three points against Hull City on Saturday.
Jansson, whose 41st-minute finish settled the clash with Norwich, said: “It’s much easier to play football when you win games. That’s natural.
“Of course when you lose five or six games in a row it’s not easy to have that feeling but you have to have it and now, when we win games, of course it’s more easy to play.
“Now when we go out on the pitch we feel like we’re going to win and we feel as though we’re strong.
“Then you win games and that’s how it is in football.
“You have to have feeling that you’re going to win.”
Jansson has not been short of encouraging moments this season, signing a new five-year contract at Elland Road days after being dropped at Bristol City and helping Sweden to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
His initial displays were mixed, however, and Christiansen openly warned him that his involvement at the World Cup would depend on his domestic performances for Leeds.
Jansson has shown a noticeable improvement since Sweden’s qualification was confirmed and the 26-year-old conceded he had deserved the jolt of being left out at Ashton Gate.
“He’s the type of person who’s been good for me,” Jansson said. “When I wasn’t in my best shape he took me away (out of the team) and I respected it 100 per cent.
“It was like a wake-up call so I worked even harder on the training ground. It was a wake-up call for me to really understand that now I have to step up. After that I’ve been better in every game and in training. I really respect him.
“Last year I was one of the most important players so that was a big decision for him to make.
“Of course at Bristol it was tough but I worked hard and now I get the result. I’m proud of myself that I’ve come out from this.”
Leeds’ current streak shows four wins in six and only one defeat, away at Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, since the season resumed after the last international break
Jansson said: “Personally I feel much better, in much better shape and in much better form than a couple of weeks ago.
“It was a strange start to the season for me, I was suspended for the first two games and I came in a bit later than the others for pre-season because of my marriage and the national games I had with Sweden. I had some small injuries. It was a messy start.
“But since the Middlesbrough game and after the international break when I went to the World Cup with Sweden, I came back with another feeling. I’m getting better every week I think and this was a good performance.”