Mike Ashley knows his business. Hell, he’s the world’s number one expert on the subject. It’s made him billions.
He knows how to wring out a brand, how to suck it dry, how to turn every ounce of goodwill into cash. Trouble is, that’s all he knows, and I guess that’s why he’s started getting this twitch. You might’ve seen it? Up by his right eye?
Take Lonsdale. That was a decent brand. Used to mean something, born out of the sweat and blood of a thousand fighters. But times change and there just weren’t that many people wanting to pay fifty quid for a grey sweatshirt. Shame for Lonsdale but not for Mike. He sniffed an opportunity, snapped it up, slapped Lonsdale’s logo all over his tatty gear and sold it off at a fiver a pop. Bargain, everyone thinks. Lonsdale for a fiver. He sells thousands, millions, until gradually people realise, they’re only getting what they pay for. Lonsdale doesn’t mean sh.. anymore. The brand’s f…ed but Mike doesn’t care. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.
You get a business as good as that, you keep it going. Kangol, Dunlop, Slazenger. Mike’s got so much cash he doesn’t know what to do with it. So he buys this football club, way up north. Talk about branding, goodwill. He’s hit the jackpot there. Fans like you wouldn’t believe. The faith of that lot, the love. He gives them the usual budget cr.p, but they keep on coming, again and again. Granted, they give him an earful. Moan and gripe more than my missus but they keep turning up. And the cash keeps rolling in.
Of course there’s people telling him. This is a different thing. Owning a football club is about more than just the cash. I mean, he’s got more than he’ll ever need. So maybe now it’s time to aim higher. Find some meaning, some love. Mike doesn’t know what they’re on about. He’s like a witch from a story, hunched over his cauldron, feeding in the goodwill, burning it up until all that’s left is ash, and loads and loads of lovely cash.
He’s laughing even louder, cackling now, all the way to the bank.
Except, suddenly he’s not.
Cos Mike’s got a new problem. A conundrum you might say. There’s this bloke, see. I mean WTF. Not only is he a bleedin foreigner, but Mike pays the guy’s wages, and he, the foreigner that is, starts trying to tell Mike Ashley what to do with his business.
So obviously, Mike’s not having that.
But then it gets kind of tricky, cos this foreigner, right, he knows his business too. Top of his game, you might say, and he’s there in the football club building a load more goodwill. With this guy on board Mike can put ticket prices up, sh.., he can charge more for shirts than Man Utd. He can keep that cauldron burning away and the cash rolling in even faster.
So okay, Mike thinks, maybe he has to put up with this guy?
But then it gets weirder, cos what the guy wants him to do is to stop sucking out all the cash. Stop with the cauldron. Stop burning up all the goodwill and actually give the punters something real.
You are having a laugh! Mike thinks. I mean that’s the whole point of his life, get the goodwill in, burn it up, get the cash out.
But then Mike starts to understand. He starts to see it, just there, in the corner of his eye. And that is when he starts to get that twitch. Cos maybe, Mike thinks, just maybe he could let this foreigner have his way. He could stop feeding the cauldron, let those little shoots of hope sprout, let the belief grow and the dreams fly. Maybe he could really build something.
Okay, the cash flow would drop off for a year or two, but the end result is he’d have this giant super-brand that he can sell off for a cool billion.
That really gets the twitch going. Poor bugger’s shaking like a leaf. You can see it in the ripples on his pint.
Cos he can see it.
We can all see it.
And hell, Mike wants it. He wants it like he wants his beer, like he wants his silky white shirts and his kips under the table. He wants the big prize and he wants the gamble too.
But he just can’t do it.
Cos poor old Mike is stuck in his ways. His imagination just isn’t big enough. He only knows how to play the one game and he’s surrounded by a load of yes-men with the same script. Poor basta… It’s breaking his heart. There he is, hunched over his cauldron, burning up the love and the dreams, picking cash from the ash and the misery. But now he’s crying too. He’s crying cos some part of him knows what a prize pillock he is, wasting the best thing that’s ever fallen into his lap. Turning down the chance to be a hero and make a billion.
That’s all he is now, a little gollum hunched over his cauldron with another bundle of fifties, twitching and crying, and puking into his fire.
So if you do see him, take pity on his miserable, shrunken soul. Give him a quid. Maybe buy the poor bast… a pint.