Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Barmy Bill

Billy Cooper has been spoken about a lot in this Ashes summer. The Barmy Army man on the trumpet was banned from Trent Bridge and received a wealth of exposure in the national press. Having followed the England team around the world for nearly twenty years, we caught up with him and waxed lyrical about David Warner, toilets in the subcontinent and getting arrested in Australia.

Barmy Bill
TMS: Billy, you have been one of the stars of the Ashes this summer, you’re a well known face on Australian tv after Trumpetgate in 06, you’ve had documentaries made about you with regards to Cardiff in 09 and have even appeared with the team on the infamous victory tour stage in 2005, so it must be a massive privilege to be interviewed by The Middle Stump?

BC: Haha. Absolutely.

TMS: What do you think of the site?

BC: I've only seen a couple of articles, and there are a lot of cricket sites out there, but I like it as it takes itself a lot less seriously than most.

TMS: Are you enjoying the summer so far?

BC: Yes very much so. It's been a funny old Ashes though. After we trounced them at Lord's I was tempted to put a bet on the 5-0, so it has been a slight sense of an anti climax really with them getting better and better. It was rather an apt finish at the Oval.

TMS: Being very thorough interviewers here and having conducted meticulous research, we thought you were some pissed bloke who just played the trumpet occasionally. You’re actually a trained trumpet player and a professional aren’t you, playing in West End musicals?

BC: Both descriptions you could say are true! I play in operas, ballets, musicals and did four years at the Guildhall and then a year at the Royal Academy.

Brett Lee...a Barmy Army favourite

TMS: Any reaction from David Warner with the Rocky music? Got to be said, we are growing to quite like him.

BC: He seems to have taken it well. I think in an interview he said, "Fair play, I deserve it", and he has dealt with it all really well. I suppose it is like when you tease a kid, some react well and some bite. He has smiled. You get some like Justin Langer or Mitchell Johnson who take the bait, and then others like Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne or Brett Lee who smile and have good banter. Brett was a Barmy Army favourite. He'd scratch his arse in front of us and someone would give him a jibe about his sexuality from the crowd. Quick as a flash he would show us his wedding ring finger - top lad!

TMS: How did it all come about?

BC: I'd always wanted to go abroad and watch England, so I organised for five of us to go to Barbados and Antigua in 1994. I had to take my trumpet as if you don't practice for a while your lips start to go quite quickly. I lost my trumpet in a back of a taxi and during Lara's 400 I heard some bloke playing it in the Barmy Army. I went over and said that was my trumpet, and one of them said, "Prove it is yours by playing us a tune". So I did. The rest is history. 

TMS: It must be an expensive hobby?

BC: Hmmm yes. It really can be. Some of the guys go to every Test match. I am hoping to get some sponsorship for the Ashes tour, but trying to get some sponsorship for Pakistan in Dubai is a different matter!

Just're not Jimmy any more

TMS: Let’s talk Vic Flowers. Since the Jimmy Savile scandal, has his nickname changed?

BC: I feel a bit sorry for him. When it all happened he said, "I never called myself Jimmy anyway, you lot called me it". He is just Vic now and even wore a badge saying, "Just Vic".

TMS: Favourite venue in the world? 

BC: Adelaide, although they have modernised it, it still has the iconic scoreboard. However, you can still congregate on the grass there. I prefer the grounds with free seating arrangements. Cape Town is good too. A great ground with Table Mountain as a backdrop but it is always really busy when we go there.

TMS: Worst venue in the world? 

BC: Dubai. A soul less bowl in the middle of nowhere with poor transport links. Saying that, Abu Dhabi was really nice with open sides of grass. Some of the venues in the subcontinent though, you really don't want to be using the public toilets. You either need to pop the immodium or blag your way into the members or press areas, shall we say!

TMS: Which England player loves the Barmy Army the most?

BC: We have a good relationship with all of them, but I would say Matt Prior. He likes it when we get going, and even invited us down to Hove last year for the West Indies game v Sussex. It pissed it down with rain though and we spent the day in the pub!

TMS: Which opposition player has given you guys the best the banter and had the best laugh with you?

BC: Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were both good. All the New Zealand team were great and we even had a drink with them. I think it all got a bit much for Daniel Vettori though, all the songs we had for Jesse Ryder.

Mitchell Johnson...on hearing the news he wouldn't have to face the English crowds this summer

TMS: Has any opposition player ever got the arse with you?

BC: Mitchell Johnson kicked off on the last Ashes tour at Perth. He'd bowled really well and England were about to lose by an innings or so, but we thought we would just sing all morning regardless. It was just after his mum had come out in the press that she didn't think his girlfriend was good enough for him, so we played a song along the lines of the Addams family tune, which starts with "Your mother hates your missus". He stopped half way through his run up yelling "You Pommie Wankers".

TMS: Mitchell Johnson. First Ball. Sydney. Talk us through it?

BC: That was brilliant. I wasn't sure about the "He bowls to the left" song, as it was a bit borderline, but Michael Vaughan tweeted it and Prior told us the England dressing room loved it. It just all built up, and the noise when he came out to bat was immense. Poor fella.

TMS: What is the buzz like leading close to 20,000 people giving it the large one such as Melbourne on the last tour? It must be amazing.

BC: It is actually harder with a big crowd. I'm sure there must be an optimum trumpet to crowd ratio! It's a brilliant feeling but we try and keep it less 'football-ey'. Also any bad language or bad songs, regardless of who sings them always reflects on the Barmy Army.

TMS: How many cricket grounds have you been kicked out of?

BC: Only Brisbane in 2006. I came close in Cape Town but ended up with security policing the England fans. The good thing about the Barmy Army is that they 'self police'. I did get the trumpet out at Lord's once, and Botham commentating said, "This guy follows England all around the world". The camera then panned back to me, and I had full security all over me, but didn't get chucked out.

TMS: What happened when you got nicked at the Gabba? Released or thrown in a cell?

BC: Two police took me out. The male copper got out his warrant card and was going to arrest me, but then got talked out of it by the policewoman who thought it was a bit harsh. I got a banning order stopping me from playing within 500 metres of the ground for forty eight hours.

TMS: What happened this summer with regards to not being allowed to play at Trent Bridge?

BC: Most grounds have a no musical instruments policy. We'd been in touch months previously via the ECB but still weren't allowed to play. It was a shame as although I don't want any special treatment, the players wanted us there. 

Don't cry for me, Darren Lehmann

TMS: Have you got any new songs lined up for the Aussies for the winter?

BC: I am sure there will be. Most of them are made up spontaneously. We just started with "Don't cry for me, Darren Lehmann" after his Stuart Broad comments, so I am sure that will get an airing.

TMS: Is it true that the Barmy Army feel more appreciated in Australia than they do in the UK?

BC: In a funny way, yes. Sport is everything over there, and they love it, they love the banter. Maybe they are less conservative, I don't know?

TMS: Thanks Billy for your time, you have been great and it is superb to see someone putting the fun back into the game, enjoying themselves and giving enjoyment to others via cricket. Long may it continue!

BC: Thanks mate. I'm not universally liked but thank you.


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