My earliest interaction with Mike Ashley was when I managed his Sports Direct account for Nike. It was a dark, cold night in Shirebrook which is notable for two things. Shirebrook is in the heart of coal country where Arthur Scargill rallied his
fellow miners against Margaret Thatcher and secondly, where Mike's empire is headquartered. To be specific Junction 29 off of the M1 and then follow the signs. Mike invited me to accompany him, his brother John and his father who I only knew as Mr Ashley.
Mike's chopper was waiting on the helipad as we all strode across the tarmac. I'm the last to get in and the only one to begin to strap myself in. Conscious of eyes boring down on me. Look up and hear the pilot say " First time?". Without waiting for the obvious
answer he bangs the side of the chopper and says " This goes down, were all dead mate", slams the door shut and away we go. We were off to Coventry to watch Mike's team, Newcastle United in the Carling Cup. Couldn't tell you what round it was, but Kevin Keegan
was the manager. I should at this point explain that Mike has a driver named Ian who turns up with the Bentley once we land and off we go again. Ian's never been to the Ricoh where Coventry play so I can't blame him for dropping us off at the opposite
end of the ground where we were supposed to be. Problem was we had to walk past all the Toon fans, who were hovering around the coaches that had brought them South. Most had already had a skinfull, shirts were tied around their waists and cigs being passed
around. Mike is not someone who can blend in and I hear the first words directed at him " Buy us a f****** striker, open your wallet man". While all this is going on there is an official from Newcastle desperately trying to catch up with his Owner to make
sure he has tickets to get in. 'Tickets' I think, he's the Owner of Newcastle. Welcome to life with Mike. We were to sit in the 'Away' section with the Toon Army and needed tickets to get in. Remember Mike's father was with us and once he got wind, said he
was having none of that and duly asked to be escorted to the 'Directors Box'. I was tempted to offer to keep Mr Ashley company but thought, 'this is probably a test, better suck it up'. It was all you could imagine once we got inside, chaos. Sitting in the
middle of the Toon faithful, half the 'Army' wanting to hit Mike and the other half wanting a picture taken with him. Insanity. 10 mins before half time Mike stands up and says "Come on then". Finally, I think we're off to the Directors Box for a nibble and
cold one. Not so, as Mike tells his brother John to get the meat pies and that he will get the beers with me. We're spending half time with the Toon Army. More pictures, beer spilt everywhere, more abuse and more praise for Mike. The police look on in awe,
all two of them who were crazy enough to be in the vicinity. Frantically talking into their walkie talkies for back up. Thankfully there were no casualties and Newcastle won in extra time. Back to the Bentley and Ian takes us back up the M1 to Shirebrook while
Mr Ashley goes South in the chopper. As I stretched out in the back seat of the Bentley, little did I know that the fireworks were just about to start as the voice of Dennis Wise comes over the hands free speaker and I hear "Super Kev just doesn't". The saga
of Kevin Keegan is for another day. All in all a grand night out in the Midlands! One for the ages.