The Tottenham manager enjoyed a low-key comeback following heart surgery as his side comfortably defeated Aston Villa
Harry Redknapp had two stents placed into an artery in his heart to ensure that his blood flowed more lustily. For the Tottenham Hotspur manager, though, there is no substitute for Premier League passions. Back in his natural habitat after a near three-week period of enforced rest, he watched his team climb to the heights of third place after this dismantling of Aston Villa.
Redknapp seemed determined to remain low-key, to internalise his emotions. When Emmanuel Adebayor scored his second goal of the evening Redknapp applauded and, almost nonchalantly, turned and strolled towards his bench, hands thrust deep into his coat. His assistant, Joe Jordan, supplied the touchline histrionics. In his quiet way, though, Redknapp could revel in a command performance, which suggested that Tottenham are a decent bet for Champions League qualification.
The pleasure was intensified by seeing Gareth Bale rip Villa apart. Defenders might have been massed against him but it did not matter. Adebayor supplied the cutting edge yet Bale offered the thrills, in front of the Villa-supporting prime minister David Cameron. It was no fun for him. For Redknapp, though, the return to normality was beautiful.
He has been uncomfortable at the attention that has accompanied his health scare and has consistently attempted to play down the surgery's severity. He would point out that there were seriously ill people in the hospital beds beside him and it was typical of him to devote more of his programme notes to the Tickets for Troops initiative, which the club is supporting, than to the beating of his ticker.
Redknapp had felt shortness of breath during one of his sessions on the treadmill at home in Dorset and, after a consultation with the Tottenham doctor, he was admitted for the procedure that did not require a general anaesthetic. He was discharged 36 hours later and he was up and about shortly afterwards, taking the bulldogs out and getting under the feet of his wife. He did not ask for his doctor's permission to return. He had Sandra's.
Redknapp admitted that he found it "more stressful" to watch his team's away win at Fulham on television and he had stewed away from the club, enjoying a short break in Dubai but generally bouncing off the walls. He saw his squad again only at the pre-match meal in the White Hart Lane's players' lounge and his arrival in the dug-out drew the lenses of the photographers, who looked a little miffed to have the first and fourth battalions of the Rifles regiment crowding their shots. The soldiers had led the teams out of the tunnel before filing along the touchline.
There is something about a game under the lights at the Lane and Tottenham approached this one with form and attacking momentum behind them. Alex McLeish had made his priority clear when he named six defenders in Villa's starting line-up but Adebayor was given the freedom of the six-yard box to open the scoring in acrobatic style. Redknapp did not celebrate. He is not one for grandstanding. But he enjoyed that magical surge of emotion.
Redknapp often says that he loves watching his team play. There are few more exhilarating sights in the English game than that of Bale leading a charge and there is a slickness and invention about Tottenham's passing and movement. There has been plenty made of the notion that Redknapp is Fabio Capello's successor-in-waiting but he would not leave Tottenham lightly. One suspects he would relish the invitation to manage England more than the reality.
There was more to test Redknapp's cool in the second half, particularly Adebayor's gilt-edged one-on-one miss on 53 minutes. But the dramas were in front of the Villa goal rather than at the other end, where Ledley King was imperious. A gentle stroll was just what Redknapp's doctor might have ordered.