So, after a fortnight of bluster, bombast and PR spin, time finally ran out for the Three Bears.
With them dithering over an EGM, Mike Ashley got in first.
It wasn’t hard. It’s easy to beat someone who’s standing still.
If we’re talking fairy stories (and we almost always are with these guys) you don’t have to look much further than the one about the hare and the tortoise, after all.
The fans had been so happy, too.
Their forums had been buzzing with good news about the Battle of the Billionaires. All these people, wanting to pour money into a down-on-its-luck Scottish football club.
It warms the cockles of the heart, doesn’t it?
All these years, they waited for a sugar daddy … now they have one.
It’s just a pity that they are feeding him the sugar.
People are asking, “Where does it leave them?”
I guess that sort of depends on what Mike Ashley wants.
If he wants to go down in history as the saviour of the Peepil then I guess they’ll be signing big name players again in no time at all.
That seems unlikely. It seems, in short, like the sort of thing you read about in the works of George R.R. Martin.
Whomever winds up sitting on this iron throne is going to have a very sore backside though.
If you’ve seen the pictures which were doing the rounds on Twitter last night you’ll know that rumours of the club “not having a pot to piss in” are as erroneous as some of the contracts we hear so much about.
They have plenty of pots. It’s just that all of them are collecting rainwater from the leaky roofs.
This is a club falling apart in more ways than one.
Here’s a wee analogy for you, about what the next prospective owner would be “investing in.”
Imagine you’re passing a showroom and you spot the car of your dreams.
It has a price tag on it, which seems so low as to be unbelievable.
You go in there, and you ask the smooth, young salesman behind the desk about it.
He tells you it’s legit. You can’t believe it.
Not that it matters, because you can’t afford it either.
But you can borrow, and he encourages you to do that. After all … this is your dream.
So you do. You beg and scrape together the money.
You return to the showroom, breathless, hoping no-one has got there first.
The salesman smiles at you.
“Others are interested,” he says. “It’s good you got here fast.”
You smile, and you hand over your money without a second thought.
You take the car home and you spend hours staring out the window at it.
It looks so beautiful.
You try not to think about how much it has cost. When you do, you remind yourself that the price was so low that you got a bargain.
The following day you take it out for a proper spin. You get a mile. A door falls off.
“Cripes,” you say. “How’d that happen?”
You take it back to the showroom, where the salesman tells you to read the small print in the contract.
No returns, no repairs.
You grump and moan, but you take the business card he offers you for some out of town body shop and you get the car there, worrying something else will go wrong.
As you watch the repairman weld the door back on, you have a nagging feeling in your gut.
You write him a cheque that you can almost feel the weight of, and he smiles and you get behind the wheel and you drive home.
Your car looks so beautiful. And it was cheap, even with the repair.
You can almost believe this.
You go to bed, and dream of waking up to see it driving away of its own volition.
You wake in a cold sweat. The car is still parked outside. Good.
The following day, you are driving and the window shatters. Just like that.
You drive it to the nearest garage. You explain the situation, through gritted teeth.
“Do you want me to give it a complete overhaul?” asks the mechanic.
“Hell no,” you tell him, because you are terrified of what he might find.
The glass is fixed. You leave to go home, but as you are driving the two front wheels come away from their coupling, and you are slammed against the dashboard.
You get out, stunned, and watch them roll languidly down the street.
You turn to your car, you give it a hard kick in spite of yourself … and that’s when the engine falls out the bottom and onto the road.
An hour later, you are back in the showroom, berating the salesman.
He tells you, still wearing that smile, to go home and check the vehicle logbook, which in your initial funk you didn’t even open.
What you find horrifies you. A catalogue of problems and disasters. Your vehicle isn’t even a whole car, but the welded together pieces of two or three …
You call the salesman, to verbally flay him over the phone.
He’s been expecting your call, he says.
“I was duped!” you tell him. It works for other people.
He sniggers, and says you can get it repaired, in full.
You are almost weeping at the obvious glee in his voice.
“How much?” you ask him.
He tells you. It’ll cost you more than the car did … and a lot more than it’s worth.
For you, the party is over. What do you do now?
One suspects the Three Bears would have felt a little like this if they’d actually gotten their hands on the keys.
They might well be breathing a sigh of relief tonight, now that it’s out of their hands.
Mike Ashley is the only one of the interested parties who can afford to keep that club running.
If that’s his plan, then all well and good.
If his plan is to milk it of everything of value – as seems likely – the future is pain.
Whatever his intentions, he’s now the only show in town.
The Three Bears, who just a week ago were getting ready for their victory lap, fell asleep on the line and were pipped at the post by a more serious contender who just plodded away.
Unless you do believe in fairy tales, it was always going to end like this, with a Sports Direct sign in place of those wrought iron gates.
Tomorrow night, in protest, every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain because …
That’s all they’ve got left to do now. It’s over.
Today’s the day the teddy bears had their pitch nicked.
Jelly and ice cream, anyone?