Ever wondered what its like to be at a momentous Ashes victory? Or to be thanked by your heroes for helping them achieve their dream? The Barmy Army know. As synonymous with cricket as Aggers, the Barmy Army have been the subject of endless discussion and contention since their inception on the Ashes tour of 1994-1995 down under. Ian Wooldridge once wrote that they should be gassed, whilst England players past and present have credited them with aiding them to victory.
Whether you want to gas them or gas with them, the Barmy Army are a cricket phenomenon. Their recently released book ‘Everywhere We Went’ charts their rise from a small group of like minded fans abroad to the current operation that has thousands of members, and offers tours, tickets and merchandise to the cricketing world.
The book should not be misinterpreted as a history of the group. The word history denotes ‘boring’, and that is certainly not a word associated with the Barmy Army. Instead, this is a book that answers the question on the lips of many non-cricket fans: why do thousands of cricket lovers travel the world, supporting their team through the highs and the lows, the wins and the losses?
The book is packed full of stories from members of the Barmy Army who have quite literally been there, done that, and bought the tour t-shirt. They chart the journey from the early days when the fans would regularly rub shoulders with the very men that they idolised, drinking and celebrating with the players after matches, to the most recent Ashes tour that paid dividends to the countless fans who’d waited 24 years to witness that series victory.
What Dirs manages to capture through his interviews with the founding members of the group, International players past and present, members of the media, and even the guy who printed their first ever tour t-shirts, is the essence of the Barmy Army – the enduring spirit of England fans, singing in the face of adversity.
The differing reactions of England players to the Barmy Army provides a fascinating read, in particular, the confession by Nasser Hussain that hearing “Michael Vaughan My Lord’ for the first time was the moment that he realised his captaincy was over. It gives an unprecedented insight into the effect that the Barmy Army have had on English cricket over the last 20 years.
If you have experienced the high of following your cricket team abroad it will transfer you back to those glorious memories. If you haven’t, it will have you rushing to the nearest computer to book your place on the next tour. And for anyone who thinks cricket is boring, I challenge them to read the first chapter of this book and not change their minds.
Everywhere We Went: Top Tales from Cricket’s Barmy Army by Ben Dirs is out now