PONTUS JANSSON’s Leeds United career may be only seven games old, but a mutual admiration society is already well established.
The 6ft 5ins Swede, signed from Torino in a loan deal that is expected to be made permanent for a seven-figure fee in January, has proved such a popular hit with supporters that a terrace song has already been bestowed on the defender.
To the tune of My Old Man’s a Dustman, the ditty includes the line, ‘And if you throw a brick at him, he’ll head the f***** back’.
Stretching things a tad? Of course, though judging by the relish that Jansson set about his defensive duties against Barnsley, maybe not.
The 25-year-old was immense, the defender’s towering performance perhaps best illustrated by the way he almost single-handedly repelled wave after wave of attacks as the Reds laid siege to the home goal during a pulsating finale.
Be it getting his head on two exocet missiles of long throws from Marc Roberts, throwing himself in front of a rifled shot from Josh Scowen or charging towards the touchline before dispatching both Sam Winnall and the ball over the touchline, Elland Road’s new cult hero was everywhere.
That these all came in a frantic final few minutes just underlined the value of Jansson’s performance on an afternoon when he showcased brilliantly the qualities that United head coach Garry Monk had first spotted when on the Swansea City bench during a Europa League tie in which the defender had starred for Malmo.
Even on the rare instance when a Barnsley man looked to have got the better of him, as Ryan Kent did during the first half by skipping round a sliding challenge wide on the United left, Jansson somehow got back to reclaim the ball before the home goal could come under threat.
No wonder Elland Road has taken to the Swedish international so quickly, as the Leeds-supporting guitarist of band Kaiser Chiefs – named after Lucas Radebe’s club in South Africa before he moved to West Yorkshire – neatly encapsulated with a post-match tweet.
‘If Pontus Jansson carries on like this we might have to change our band’s name to Torino,’ read Simon Rix’s Twitter account and there can be little doubt that these positive vibes from the locals are reciprocated by the Swede.
“I am really happy that the fans like me,” Jansson told The Yorkshire Post after being the last man to head down the tunnel following a lap of honour that took in all four sides of the stadium.
“But I don’t know why. I am just playing my type of game, I have not played like this to make them like me. It is just how I am.
“I like to attack the ball, I like to fight and do everything for my team. At the end, the ball was coming to my head like a magnet.
“Football is more and more like a business, but you also have to go on the pitch and have fun. That is important and why it is great to have a relationship with the fans”
Fun might not have been exactly what the final quarter of an entertaining derby encounter was like for those whose loyalties lay with United. Judging by the furrowed brows among the home crowd, purgatory might be a better description.
However, for a 25-or-so-minute spell either side of half-time, Leeds did produce an attacking performance that was as good as anything seen since Monk took charge in the summer.
Playing with pace and purpose, the hosts continually forced Barnsley back and were rewarded with a couple of goals and enough chances to kill the game.
The first of those strikes came eight minutes before the interval to, effectively, kick-start what had up to then been a rather pedestrian affair from the hosts’ perspective.
Pablo Hernandez’s corner created the opening and Kyle Bartley did the rest by nipping ahead of Marc Roberts and volleying past Adam Davies from close range.
Chances followed for Hernandez and Chris Wood before the break, and after the restart Hadi Sacko was denied by Davies and Wood wasted a glorious opportunity to release Eunan O’Kane.
A second goal arrived on 54 minutes courtesy of a looped pass from O’Kane and exquisite finish from Hernandez.
Barnsley, who had been the better side in the opening half-hour without being able to capitalise, regained a foothold in the derby when Adam Hammill released Cole Kpekawa down the left.
He drilled a low cross that evaded Rob Green’s dive but not the left leg of Taylor, who under pressure from Winnall could only fire into his own net. Cue a frantic finale that, after Marcus Antonsson had been brilliantly denied by Davies, belonged entirely to the Reds. However, no matter what Barnsley tried, Leeds – or, more specifically, Jansson – proved equal to it and claimed a fourth straight home win.
“I believe we can beat every team in this league if we have the right mentality,” added Jansson. “I am not here just to play games. I am here to take Leeds into the play-offs and the Premier League.”