AHEAD of 2017’s first Yorkshire derby, Pontus Jansson admits to having made two New Year’s wishes: for a permanent move to Leeds United and promotion to the Premier League.
The Swede has become a cult hero at Elland Road following his loan switch from Torino in late August.
Leeds have won 12 times in his 19 appearances and his expected involvement today at home to Rotherham United in front of a 30,000-plus crowd will trigger a clause that allows Jansson to join permanently for £3.5m.
“I have not heard anything,” said the 25-year-old when asked by The Yorkshire Post about a possible deal being done now the transfer window is open.
“But my New Year wish is to be a Leeds player. I hope my agent and the club can make the deal permanent.
“I just put my focus on playing games and Rotherham is the next one. It is not a problem for me to keep my mind on the game and leave the rest to others. I am used to that because I have been in this position before.
“You have to be professional and do your best on the pitch. That is what I will do.”
Jansson netted United’s goal in their final outing of 2016, last Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. He also hit the crossbar with a ferocious volley and pulled off a vital last-ditch tackle after Jonathan Kodjia had been handed a gilt-edged opportunity by a slack back pass from Kalvin Phillips.
Such heavy involvement in a match was typical of Jansson’s first four months at Elland Road and why supporters are so desperate to see the switch made permanent.
“The move has been great,” added Jansson. “Since the first day, it has felt really good to be here. When the fans love you, it is easy to play football.
“But I do believe I haven’t shown my 100 per cent yet. There is more to come from me.”
Jansson’s focus today is on a Rotherham side who seem destined to head in the opposite direction to upwardly mobile Leeds.
Last Thursday’s defeat at home to Burton Albion was the Millers’ 17th in 24 league outings but Jansson insists the Championship’s bottom club cannot be taken lightly.
“It will not be an easy game,” added the defender, who missed November’s 2-1 win at the New York Stadium through suspension.
“From the first minute, we have to go out there and kill them. Put full pressure on them and play the football we want to play.”
United have been in the play-off positions since beating Rotherham on November 26 and Jansson believes such a lofty standing is deserved.
“We are in the position we want to be in,” he added. “We play good football and I think we have finally realised just how good we are.
“If you ask me, we are one of the best footballing teams in this league – and now we are starting to get some of the injured players back to 100 per cent.
“When we believe in ourselves, we are a really good team. Now, we just have to keep going because we want to go to the Premier League. If we go directly or the play-offs, it doesn’t matter.”
Kyle Bartley could return after missing the trip to Villa Park but Eunan O’Kane is expected to still be out. Chris Wood should return to the starting XI.
As for Rotherham, the defeat to Burton came as a bitter blow. Victory would have narrowed the gap between the Millers and Nigel Clough’s fourth bottom side to just six points but survival now looks as far away as ever.
Despite that, interim manager Paul Warne insists his players are eagerly looking forward to the trip up the M1 and an opportunity avenge defeat to Leeds in what proved to be Kenny Jackett’s final game in charge.
“If I speak after the game at Leeds and we lose 1-0, with all due respect, people won’t be surprised,” he said. “We are bottom of the league and they are in the play-offs.
“The lads are well aware of that. But if you start the game well and are confident – and I think the lads are all pretty confident in how we play and it is a Yorkshire derby, which is a good game to play in – then you never know.
“If I was still playing, I would love to be playing against Leeds. The lads don’t go into games with any fear and are not idiots either. They can see the league table and know they are up for a right fight.
“It is just about how well we start the game and how well we can calm the crowd down and slow the game down. We will take any advantage we can, obviously.
“It will be an interesting game and I just hope that the lads show the character and desire that they have been showing.”
As for the previous derby between these two clubs this season, Warne added: “I thought that they were excellent and the best team we have played. You look at other teams and think that they have weaknesses, but Leeds are pretty solid.
“You have just got to hope you are in the game and when you do get opportunities, take them. That is the way I will set up.”
Today will bring a return to Elland Road for Tom Adeyemi, who spent last season on loan with Leeds.
“I am really looking forward to it,” said the midfielder. “It is a great place to play, it is a great stadium and there is always a great atmosphere. Despite how well they are doing, I believe that we can win.”