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THE last time Brendan Rodgers took a stroll around the Liberty Stadium the circumstances were very different.
Back in May, the Northern Irishman was afforded a standing ovation by Swansea City’s supporters as he embarked on a lap of honour having signed off a remarkable first season in the Premier League with victory over Liverpool.
Danny Graham’s late strike had consigned the Reds to their worst top flight finish for 18 years.
As Rodgers shook hands with Kenny Dalglish, little did he know that within three weeks he would succeed the Kop icon at Anfield.
Tomorrow emotions will be running high as the 39-year-old returns to Swansea for the first time since his departure.
Rodgers isn’t sure what kind of reception he will be afforded having decided to end his two-year stay in South Wales.
However, he remains proud of what he achieved there – earning the Swans promotion to the top flight and then keeping them up in style.
“As an old manager, you never know when you go back,” said Rodgers. “But whatever reception I get, I will always be eternally grateful to the people of South Wales and Swansea City. The reception I get won’t change my thinking.
“It was a wonderful club with really honest people who are passionate about the club and the fit was perfect. This is certainly a fixture I’ve been looking forward to. It’s a beautiful part of the world and a brilliant club.
“I had two memorable years there and it was a wonderful experience. I have great memories both professionally and personally.
“We created history when we were there. In our first season, the players, supporters and the city really came together as one and we got promoted.
“It was then deemed that there was more chance of seeing Elvis Presley than us surviving in the Premier League! But against all the odds we did well.
“The players were magnificent and the supporters were passionate. I loved every minute and my family loved it there as well. I was in no hurry to leave but I got the chance to come to a club of this status.
“There are very few times in your lifetime when you will get asked to come to a club like Liverpool. When that comes you have to take that opportunity and I’m ever so glad that I did.”
Rodgers insists the sentiment around the contest won’t distract him from his primary objective – ensuring those fans who once saluted him go away with nothing to celebrate.
Last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wigan extended the Reds’ unbeaten run in the Premier League to seven games and victory tomorrow would propel them into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
“I’ve got many friends there but my concentration is purely on the game,” he said. “Ultimately we’re looking to get the result – that’s what we are there for.
“We have a strong mentality in the league at the moment and we are looking to continue that run.
“We had a terrific result against Wigan. It was a good performance against a side who had won away to Tottenham. We restricted them to very few opportunities, scored three goals ourselves and could have had more, so we’re going to Swansea with confidence.”
The Swans have responded well to the departure of Rodgers and £15million midfielder Joe Allen, who followed his manager to Anfield. Michael Laudrup has enjoyed a fine start to his reign with the Welsh outfit one point and a place better off than Liverpool.
They drew 1-1 with Chelsea in their last home game and were impressive 2-1 winners away to Newcastle last weekend. Everton are the only team to have triumphed at the Liberty Stadium so far this season.
“It’s a really difficult place to go and get a result,” added Rodgers. “Last season we beat Liverpool there and a number of other big teams at home. Thankfully, we are going into this game with a really strong mindset.”
All eyes will be on the tussle between Luis Suarez and Ashley Williams following the Swansea defender’s scathing comments about the Reds striker in his new book which was released this week.
Williams claimed he disliked Suarez so much he wanted to “knock him out” and he also blasted the Uruguayan for diving.
However, Rodgers revealed that Williams has since apologised for his comments and insists there will be no problems between the pair.
“I’ve spoken to Ash and Ash has spoken with Luis so there’s no issue there,” he said. “When I saw it I was surprised because in my time there, knowing his character, he’s a good man with good intelligence and maturity. He’s a terrific football player and when I saw those comments I found it hard to believe.
“I got the full explanation about how it seemingly got out there and Ash was very quick to apologise for that. That’s gone now and there is no problem there. I’m sure they will shake hands on Sunday and get on with it.”
Rodgers is confident the frustration of conceding a late equaliser in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Young Boys won’t have an impact on tomorrow’s match.
“We’re in a run of games where we can’t afford to be down for too long,” he said. “The players were superb throughout but we didn’t take our chances and got punished late on. The great thing is that it’s in our hands. We are more than capable of beating Udinese.
“But our focus is on Sunday. We’re in good condition to go to Swansea and win the game.”