JJB Sports founder Dave Whelan has revealed that he wishes he had “crushed” rival business Sports Direct when he first saw the then-fledgling retailer’s stores.

The former footballer and retail entrepreneur discloses in his autobiography to be published next month that when he first saw Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley’s shops he did not see them as a real threat.

“Looking back, when he grew to about six shops I really should have crushed him,” he wrote.

Whelan also reveals he was “ast-ounded” when he was found guilty of price-fixing by the Office of Fair Trading after a tip-off from Ashley. 

The book contains colourful highlights from throughout Whelan’s retail career, which began on a market stall. He details deals with big retail names including how he agreed on a price for his supermarket chain Whelan Discount with Sir Ken Morrison in the gents toilets at Morrisons’ head office in 1978.

He also paid £1m more than planned when he bought Sports Division from Sir Tom Hunter on a gamble with the flip of a coin. 

Dave Whelan: Playing to Win is out on August 20, published by Aurum Press, for £18.99.