Swansea City look to ensure Harry Redknapp is not smiling on latest Liberty visit
ALL smiles in the interview room on his last trip to the Liberty, Harry Redknapp glanced up at a TV and spotted the then Chelsea manager.
"They are all raving about AVB — maybe I should start calling myself HJR," the then Tottenham boss said through a grin.
Thirteen months down the line, AVB — Andre Villas-Boas — is in the chair at White Hart Lane.
And having been controversially shown the door by Spurs to make way for the Portuguese, Henry James Redknapp is in charge at Queens Park Rangers.
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HJR has gone to QPR.
And as a result, he has swapped the race for a Champions League place for a scrap to stay out of the Championship.
Poor Redknapp. For so long it seemed certain he would be leaving Tottenham to become England's manager.
Yet Roy Hodgson got the nod for that job at the last minute and Redknapp ended up in a consultancy role at Bournemouth before Rangers owner Tony Fernandes lost patience with Mark Hughes.
Redknapp got the call from Fernandes in November, with the Hoops bottom of the Premier League.
They are still at the foot of the pile now, yet their improvement has been marked under new management.
QPR had a miserable four points from 13 games when Redknapp walked through the door.
They have since taken 13 points from the next 12 league matches, so they have at least given themselves a fighting chance of surviving.
The table still does not make pretty reading for Redknapp's men.
They are four points adrift of 19th-placed Aston Villa and six behind Reading, who currently sit one spot clear of the drop zone in 17th.
Hughes pledged after Rangers dodged relegation on the final day of last season that the club would never end up in such danger again while he was in charge.
But the alarm bells have been ringing since the opening instalment of this campaign, when Michael Laudrup's Swansea City reign began with that extraordinary 5-0 triumph at Loftus Road.
And whether they end up avoiding a return to the second tier or not, Rangers seem certain to be fighting until the end — if they are lucky — once more this season.
The bookmakers reckon the 2010-11 Championship champions are doomed — they are odds-on to go down — but Redknapp has pulled off escape acts before in his colourful managerial career. Encouragingly, he has lost only three league games since taking the reins.
The problem is that he has won just two.
Rangers beat Fulham on their own patch in mid-December and, remarkably, they toppled Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2.
They head to Wales this weekend knowing that while Swansea are a tough nut to crack on their own patch, draws will not be much use from here on in.
If Rangers are to make the traditional 40-point survival mark, they need to take 23 from their 13 remaining league games.
That looks a big ask for a club who have found the going so tough since they were promoted alongside Swansea two seasons ago.
Rangers will need to do something special if they are to stretch their stint in the top tier into a third campaign.
Swansea, by contrast, are almost there.
At the start of this season, it was Laudrup's team rather than Rangers who the experts were suggesting could struggle.
But Swansea kick off tomorrow knowing they are only two results away from putting 40 points on the board.
On top of that, of course, they have a first ever major final to look forward to later this month, so it is no wonder Laudrup did not look too concerned after defeat at West Ham United last Saturday.
The Upton Park setback was Swansea's first league loss in eight games and, after all their progress in recent months, it was hard to be too critical.
But Laudrup will demand a response this weekend, for Swansea want to head to the Capital One Cup final in good form.
"There's so much going on that it is hard for us as a club to focus on Wembley until we actually get into the week of the game," says Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins.
"Every game is important to us, and we have to look at Queens Park Rangers and then Liverpool before we think about Bradford City.
"They are all vital games in terms of where we want to go."
Swansea will head off to Dubai next week for a spot of warm-weather training before their latest reunion with Brendan Rodgers.
The trip will be all the more enjoyable if Swansea fly out on the back of a home victory.
Rangers are not exactly full of goals — they have not scored twice in a league game since the Fulham win — but there are threats Ashley Williams and Co must deal with.
Jamie Mackie is a player Swansea are aware of, the former Plymouth man having scored in SA1 last season and been on Laudrup's list of possible deadline-day recruits last week.
Adel Taarabt has enjoyed himself against Swansea in the past — and looks to be thriving under Redknapp — while Andros Townsend impressed on debut in Rangers' goalless draw with Norwich last week after joining on loan from Spurs.
Bobby Zamora has drawn high praise from his manager, though the experienced striker is struggling with a hip injury and may only be fit enough for the bench.
Loic Remy, Rangers' £8 million January signing from Marseille, definitely misses out, but giant centre-back Chris Samba — another megamoney transfer-window recruit — will play and will offer a big threat at set-pieces.
Swansea must handle that lot — and produce some attacking menace of their own.
Laudrup's men have scored in only one of their last half-dozen matches, and there is bound to be more talk about the decision to sell Danny Graham if they draw another blank tomorrow.
Whether it is Michu rediscovering the goalscoring touch or someone else coming to the party, Laudrup needs his team to find their bite.
If they don't, the Liberty press room will be brightened up by another Redknapp smile.