By Alex Stevens
Noel Whelan has admitted he was shocked to learn that Pontus Jansson had been demoted to the bench for Leeds’ Championship clash against Brighton on Saturday.
Sweden international Jansson has forged an outstanding centre-back partnership with fellow loanee Kyle Bartley this season that has laid the foundations for the team’s promotion charge.
But the 26-year-old was surprisingly omitted from the starting XI for the top-of-the-table league clash on Saturday evening, as he was replaced by Liam Cooper.
Manager Garry Monk gave no indication in the build-up to the match that Jansson might be unavailable due to injury or illness.
The Swede looked to be in fine shape as he took part in the pre-match warm-up with his fellow substitutes before kick-off.
“I’m surprised to see Jansson on the bench, as his partnership with Bartley is integral to how Leeds United play, so I think Brighton will be surprised to not see Jansson starting,” Whelan told BBC Radio Leeds, as quoted by the BBC Leeds live matchday blog (Saturday, 5.04pm). That’s his first team partnership.
“On his day, we know Liam Cooper is a fantastic defender, and he’s done nothing wrong when he’s stepped in. We should give him more credit and give him that opportunity.
“Would Jansson be the same player without Bartley, and vice versa? We’ve talked about this before.”
Jansson has started 28 of Leeds’ 38 Championship matches since joining from Torino initially on a season-long loan last summer.
The defender has been such a success for the fourth-placed team that he has agreed to join Leeds on a permanent contract when he loan expires in May.
In other Leeds transfer news, the Yorkshire giants are in shock talks to sign a Liverpool attacking player.