By Matt Farr
Andy Ritchie believes Leeds need to sign “showman” Pontus Jansson in January if they are to reach the play-offs this season.
Leeds have been in superb form during the first-half of the campaign, winning 13 of their 24 league games, guaranteeing them a place in the play-offs for the new year.
Garry Monk’s side are currently fourth, nine points behind second-placed Brighton, and have established themselves as genuine promotion contenders.
The 1-1 draw with Aston Villa halted their three-match winning run, but with just two defeats in their last 10 league games, Leeds still have plenty momentum.
Andy Ritchie, who made 159 appearances in four years at Leeds, is confident that Leeds can seal their place in the play-offs at the end of the season, but admits that it will be tough.
The Championship has proven in recent seasons to be one of the most competitive leagues in football, and with just 10 points separating third with 12th, there are no fewer than nine teams still in contention for a play-off spot.
Ritchie told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “At the end of Thursday’s draw with Aston Villa you came away with the feeling that Leeds have a great chance of the play-offs and a potential shot at the top two as well.
“I wouldn’t be ruling out automatic promotion and I very much doubt his players are.
“But there’s a fine balance to be struck between ambition and realism and it has to be said that a top-six finish is by no means nailed on for anyone other than Brighton and Newcastle. Leeds have a massive opportunity and my gut feeling is that they’re going to reach the play-offs.
“I’m really confident in saying that despite how tight the division is. But as a manager who’s made the play-offs before, this is where the battle of endurance starts.”
Ritchie also believes that it is imperative that Leeds sign Jansson permanently next month. The defender is currently on loan at the club from Torino, and has been one of Monk’s star performers this season.
He has formed a solid partnership at the back with Kyle Bartley, and Ritchie has urged Monk to make his move permanent in January, to help them seal their route back to the Premier League.
“The club also needs a good transfer window. First up, sign Pontus Jansson permanently. That has to happen. He’s the showman, the big link with the fans. His defending has been superb and taking him permanently is a no-brainer,” he told the Post.
Leeds are next in action against bottom-of-the-table Rotherham on Monday.
In other Leeds news, Jamie Carragher has delivered his verdict on Garry Monk.