Thinking Big: Mike 'Pies' Ashley
I’ve ripped the title for this week’s Microsoft Paint Story Of The Week straight off the DVD covers of popular US sitcom Friends. That is to say I’ve copied the style of the show’s episode titles. I am obviously not insinuating that there is an episode out there in which the tubby Newcastle United owner moves in to share with Joey, resulting in an initial mutual appreciation for each other’s appetites, but spiralling out of control when Ashley decides to turn Central Perk into New York’s biggest Sports Direct store. No, sadly that episode doesn’t exist. It probably should though.
However, there is every chance that your local coffee shop is being turned into a Sports Direct as we speak, such is the expansion of Ashley’s no frills empire. Newcastle fans can relate to that. A week or so ago, the tat-peddler announced that their famous football stadium would no longer be called ‘St. James’ Park, but ‘Sports Direct.com @ St.James’ Park Stadium’. Yes, that’s right, it’s the first time in the history of football that a stadium has been given an email address instead of a name.
The Newcastle fans don’t like it, but this name change got me thinking last week. Where next for The Magpies? I mean, clearly this man has the shell of an armadillo. He sits through thousands of people abusing him every week, accusing him of not leaving them any of the pies (in a roundabout way), and has turned a tiny sports shop in Maidenhead into one of the planet’s most recognised sports retail outlets.
With that in mind, would you put it past the portly magnate to turn up the heat even further on this branding exercise? Well, this week I sent my finest reporter in the field to have a little snoop around Ashley’s office for clues. Successfully gaining access to the building by posing as the Krispy Kreme delivery man, our reporter found the following sketch tucked away under a Dominoes menu in Ashley’s drawer. As not to raise suspicion, he left Big Mike’s blueprints where they were, and instead decided to reproduce them with his typical flair in Microsoft Paint.
Yes, that’s right, Newcastle fans. Not only has Mike Ashley decided to name your stadium after his chavtastic sports emporium, but it also now looks as though he is going to use the Newcastle United playing staff to flaunt his tat. He’s obviously given it some thought though, as he appears to have picked exactly the right players to model each of his brands.
You will see that Joey Barton is now the new face of Kangol and Lonsdale. Well I say ‘face’, but given that the target market for those two brands is the UK’s world-famous ‘Hoodie’ population, then it is unlikely that you’ll be seeing much of Joey Barton’s mug from now on. It’s now more likely to feature on a grainy, pixelated image taken from a shopping mall CCTV recording, and played back on Crimewatch. Not that Joey will have to familiarise himself with that of course.
The image depicts Barton, clad in Kangol and Lonsdale gear (or perhaps ‘clobber’, I’m not really sure what a Hoodie would call it) nonchalantly kicking a coke can across the pitch, whilst texting his mates to organise the ambush of a pensioner after the game. You get me blud?
Meanwhile, as a striker who decided to move into midfield to look for a few more fights, Alan Smith is perfect to promote Sports Direct’s main boxing brand, Everlast (although I’m sure that Ashley will be kicking himself that the club let Lee Bowyer go). As you can see, he’s doing a smashing job, and has even started to get into character by calling himself ‘The Smudger’. Expect Smith to continue his transformation by starting to hold pre-match press conferences, in which he trash talks the opposition’s midfield players, calls their wives ugly, and frequently refers to himself in the third person.
Acquiring the Dunlop tennis brand was also a major coup for Ashley, and he must be over the moon to have at the club a ready-made model for his tennis gear in Jonas Gutierrez. Offering the sort of long haired, dark-skinned, Latin flair that is a relative pre-requisite for becoming any good at tennis (apparently the LTA are still unsure how Andy Murray got through their ‘fit and proper person’s test’, which involves being a tennis coach for 6 months and sleeping with at least 6 rich housewives), Gutierrez can be seen here going for a cross field passing shot into the path of the ambling Joey Barton. In contrast to Smith, expect Gutierrez to hold his press conferences post match, in which he will speak mono-syllabically, refer to ‘my game’ in every sentence uttered, and show no sign of a personality whatsoever.
Finally there’s manager Chris Hughton. Acutely aware that Hughton doesn’t sit very high in the estimations of many of the Toon Army, Ashley has decided to go all Tyra Banks on his gaffer’s ass (girlfriend) and give him a new look. Having spent hours mulling over the shop’s extensive range of tracksuits, trainers, and cheap socks, Ashley had his lightbulb moment – he would attract more young Geordies to the club by turning his manager into a skater.
Dressed from head to toe in ‘No Fear’ clothing, Hughton appears pleased with his new look, and clutches his board as he barks out orders from his technical area. In a few months time, when he’s honed his skills and learnt from the 14 year olds at the local skate park, Ashley plans to ask his manager to jump a Sports Direct logo during the half-time of each home fixture, with the logo increasing in size as the season progresses. This being the case, expect words like ‘gnarly’ and ‘epic’ to gradually start creeping into Hughton’s press conference terminology, and for him to be ‘stoked’ after each Newcastle victory.
So, Newcastle fans, it sounds like it’s going to get worse before it gets better then. However, with a free pair of Donnay socks with every beer you buy, it’s not all doom and gloom now is it? You’ll be drunk, have warm feet, AND you’ll be able to watch a grown man crash a skateboard into a giant logo! Sounds like a good afternoon out to me.