IT'S not as easy as it might look being Sir Terry Leahy. For the knight of the realm, Freeman of the City of Liverpool and brilliant business brain knows all about one particular basic, if baffling, rule of life.
Namely, when you are down among the dead men people queue up to take pot shots at you.
And when you're flying high... people queue up to take pot shots at you.
Life just ain't easy - whether you're a lifelong Evertonian, or the chief executive of Tesco, a brand that was born again and now appears to be on the brink of taking over the planet.
By the time we met in a bank's conference room in Bishopsgate in the financial heart of the capital, it had already been a long day for the man who spent the first 10 years of his life in a (long gone) pre-fab in Childwall Valley and was first paid by Tesco to stack the shelves of its store in Wandsworth, London.
He woke up to stories that Tesco had allegedly turned into Big Brother, regarding its use of collected data about me and you, and then, at a lunchtime press conference, had to repeatedly defend himself for being so **** successful.
And yet, through it all, he remained calm, cool, reasonable and, above all, unflappable. He really could be a fine politician, if he decided to give up the day job. Then again, I suppose he's paid (about £3m, including benefits and profit sharing) to keep his head, while all about are trying to knock it off.
But surely our Terry - I'll drop the "Sir" as it didn't appear on his name card at the press conference and everyone, including the business reporters, seemed to refer to him by his first name - is a bit miffed that he keeps getting bashed on the bonce for doing his job.
Er, no, not really . . . Why, though, does it happen? Is it something to do with the national motto of Small Is Beautiful, Big Is Bloody Vulgar? (Tesco's half-year results show its pre-tax profit is up 18.7% to £908m. And don't forget, this is the company that takes £1 of every £8 spent on Britain's high streets)
Terry, 49, says: "I don't know why we get criticised. It may just be that it's no longer news to say 'Tesco is being successful'. The news agenda moves on and now it's 'Tesco is too successful'. It's understandable."
You see, I told you he was reasonable.
He adds: "In the end, there's no point saying these things are unfair. It's part of a democratic society that people express their views and a company like Tesco is going to raise a lot of emotions."
OK! OK! That's enough reasonableness.
As long, he says, as Tesco has the chance to defend itself. On the Big Brother issue, for example, he stresses: "We never share our Clubcard data."
The night before I met him, Terry watched his beloved Everton give Arsenal some gentle exercise at Highbury, while he'll be up here on Saturday to cheer on God's own team against Wigan Athletic. Time, then, for a football analogy (which he is apparently fond of).
Is moneybags Tesco the moneybags Chelsea of the supermarket world. And, if so, are you Jose Mourinho?
"No, because I'd have to turn my collar up! But no, I don't think you could compare us to Chelsea. With supermarkets, everyone operates within the same set of rules and has the same chance. Each day, there is a battle for the same customers, who do go backwards and forwards between different stores. So, unlike Chelsea, I don't think we have a built-in advantage."
Continuing the football theme, if Rafael Benitez can be linked with Real Madrid, how about you and Sainsbury's. Or Asda. Aldi?
"No, I don't think so. I think most people know I'm pretty loyal. I'm a one team man!"
One commentator has suggested that if you cut Terry Leahy, he would "bleed Tesco". Sir Terry says: "That must be the brand colours, blue and red - but it'd be mostly blue!"
You are obsessed, then? "Yes, obsessed with the customers, obsessed with the business and obsessed with the people who work in the business. So that isn't a bad choice of word."
It's been some journey to this state of obsession for the married father-of-three - he lives in north London with his wife, Alison, a doctor, and their three children, 17-year-old twins Katie and Tom and David, 13.
After its pre-fab days, when Terry was 10, the Leahy family went to live on a council-owned farm where Netherley now stands. Terry's late dad, Terence snr, who reared and trained greyhounds, was asked to be caretaker of the buildings.
Then, when Terry was 14, they moved to a council estate in Lee Park - his mum,, Elizabeth, still lives in the area - by which time the third of four brothers had passed his 11-plus to get into St Edward's College in West Derby (eldest brother Mike, 54, is a bar steward at Liverpool University, while Alan, 52 and Peter, 47, are both engineers - and all live in the Liverpool area).
Terry, recalling why he was so nervous when he was given the Freedom of Liverpool in 2001, explains: "People are loyal to different things and, for me, it's been my home city. It's got such a special character."
And, wouldn't you just know it, he can seen parallels between Liverpool and Tesco.
"When I joined Tesco in 1980, it had a poor reputation, so poor that some experts were saying we should change its name. But Tesco, gradually over the decades, began to change enormously. Liverpool has also come out of a difficult time and its rate of progress is now accelerating."
And finally . . . some advice, please, from a man who knows a thing or two about success.
What would you say to young people starting out today?
"Choose what you like and make a career out of it. Then you'd have to say 'Work hard' because,, as the old saying goes, it's more about perspiration than inspiration."
Any vacancies for a shelf-stacker, then, Tezza?
Well, that's how he started . . .
Source - IC Liverpool