Jamie Redknapp om ditt og datt....
Glenn Hoddle described the acquisition of Jamie Redknapp as "the steal of a decade", comparing his passing ability to David Beckham's at his best. Mention this, and the former Liverpool midfielder is embarrassed. Yes, he is back, but privately his expectations are fixed on survival as a week-in, week-out performer for Tottenham. Just for now. If pushed, he will say his longer-term aim is "to play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday without a problem".
Redknapp, 29, is adamant he has not lost ambition. It is just that his original swell of youthful promise was quashed by injury after soul-destroying injury. It was so bad that during his last two seasons at Liverpool, he made only four League appearances.
"It was heartbreaking. There's no other way to describe it. For those two years I'd go to the training ground. The other players would come in to get their kit and go out, and I'd stay in to get treatment, or go to the gym. It's the hardest thing in the world because you can't do what you've always worked as a kid to do. People say, 'Oh, you're still getting paid', but it doesn't matter. It's the blow to your personal pride. It kills you."
At times, Redknapp could not face attending Liverpool's home games. "I thought I should really go because I was club captain, but I'd be at home and I'd just say, 'I don't think I can go today because it does my head in'," he says. "Everyone would say, 'When are you going to be fit again?' And you just think, 'Will you shut up!' You feel so isolated."
Today Redknapp is visibly stress-free, relishing the novelty of talking about his form and Tottenham's prospects rather than his latest treatment on ankle, hamstring, Achilles or knee. He is happy at White Hart Lane, happy to have rediscovered the simple joy of bombing forward on the pitch, happy with life in London close to his and his pop-star wife Louise's families.
Thanks to Richard Steadman, the knee-fixing surgeon who has treated many of the world's top sportsmen at his Colorado clinic, Redknapp can kick a ball again. However, the prognosis came with a hefty dose of realism. The knee could be mended, but he might not be able to play every day with the abandon and instinct of a boy from a football-famous family. The recuperated joint must be "managed".
Which is what Hoddle has done, solicitously ensuring Redknapp has the occasional session on a bike, rather than on the training field, should his knee need an extra day to settle. The stylish midfielder has now played eight games out of 10, and he's counting the fixtures with glee. "Thirty games for me, that would be a tremendous achievement. And I've had a good start!" he said.
"I can still improve on my 90-minutes' performance but I knew it was all coming together with the goal last week at Blackburn. It wasn't the best I've scored, but it was such a great moment because I realised it was the 90th minute, and I was still getting box to box to score a winning goal. It was a fluke but I deserved it. There was a lot of personal pride there."
That was his second goal. The first, the winning strike in the 1-0 victory over Aston Villa in August, prompted a celebration that was pure catharsis - complete with clenched fist and face etched with joy, relief and the release of pent-up frustration that recalled Stuart Pearce's primeval expression after purging his Italia 90 penalty miss with that successful strike in the penalty shoot-out against Spain in Euro 96.
No, it is not too melodramatic to suggest Redknapp still bears psychological scars. "When football was taken away from me, it broke my heart," he has said. With every game he is re-familiarising himself with his old talent.
He had an earlier chance to score in the 2-1 win over Blackburn, for instance, but missed a sitter. "I haven't been through on goal like that for 2.5 years, that's my excuse!"
He is taking gentle strides. His road back comes with horizons still shrouded in fog. You see that in his attitude towards England. Some expressed surprise that he had been overlooked by Sven-Goran Eriksson for the friendly against Portugal in early September, but Redknapp never considered himself in the frame to add to his 17 caps. And not because he has found a role as a BBC pundit.
"I don't feel frustration watching. Much as I've enjoyed playing for England, I'm just happy that everything's going well week to week for Tottenham. I'm sure Mr Eriksson knows I used to be in the England squad, but I don't look at Teletext and think, 'Ooh, I want to be in that squad'."
He paused. "And I had so much bad luck playing for England. At the back of my mind I just feel I haven't got great memories of playing for England. I broke an ankle, tore a hamstring, I just think I've had enough bad luck playing for England. Saying that, if it came around, you're not going to knock it are you?"
The move to Tottenham - never mind the medical - was nerve-racking. "I'm one of those fellas that doesn't like change, I find it scary. I'd had 11 great years at Liverpool, apart from the injuries. I needed someone to say, 'Make that break'. Lots of people did, and I'm glad I did it. I could have plodded on another year, playing three or four games here and there, but I wasn't in Gerard Houllier's plans, I could sense that. Change gives you a new lease of life."
It was the easier for returning to the club he joined as a schoolboy, to another manager with initials 'GH' on his tracksuit, but one who had included him in his England squads. He relishes playing good football, the Tottenham style he recalls watching from Gazza at his peak, Vinny Samways, Colin Calderwood and Hoddle before he left for Monaco.
"It's fulfilling, playing regularly for a team who are fifth in the League. We haven't been as fluent as we were last year, but we've had players out and we've won games that could have gone either way, which shows a good spirit."
Bolton tomorrow? "It'll be a hard game. Sam Allardyce reminds me of how my dad worked at West Ham. Last year he bought one or