St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Fans St George's Park - Legion of nutters – that’s England’s Barmy Army
Legion of nutters – that’s England’s Barmy Army
Francois Rank

IF your dreams of earning a living by playing sport have come to naught, perhaps you should consider becoming a professional sporting fan. That certainly seems to be the way a roofer, builder, two temporary workers and a police officer approach life.

Because while they do have other jobs, they’re also absolutely barmy about cricket.

Barmy Army members Ian Collindridge, Andy Thompson, Neil Stentiford, Clare Lowe, Cari Thompson and Bary the Lion.

For some members of the Barmy Army, the English national cricket side’s official supporters club who are in Port Elizabeth this weekend, following their sporting heroes around the world is not only how they spend their holidays, it’s how they live their lives.

Carl Thompson is a 24-year-old roofer form Oxford who is on his third tour.

Before South Africa he followed England to Australia and Sri Lanka and to him, touring with the Barmy Army is quite simple.

SA cricket fan Marc van Staden, from Knysna, Barmy Army fan Damian Caddick from London and Sa fan Stoffie Rimbault, also from Knysna, made good friends during the first cricket Test at St George's Park.

"We drink a hell of a lot, party a hell of a lot and make a hell of a lot of racket," he said.

But Thompson has his own personal goals which he is hoping to live up to this weekend during the Test between England and South Africa at Sahara Oval St George’s.

"I make an idiot of myself and get myself on television and in the papers. I’m what you call a nutter."

Barmy Army fans enjoy the match at St George's Park.

And ever since his first tour to Australia in 2002, Thompson has been in good company spending a lot of his barmy time with two Barmy Army members Clare Lowe, 23, and Neil Stentiford, 36, nicknamed Sky TV’s favourite couple since their tour to the West Indies last year.

The reason? They were constantly on camera.

The couple personify what the Barmy Army is all about – working temp jobs so they can tour with England abroad for three months a year.

This army’s soldiers have a fund of great stories, such as that regaled by Ian Collindridge, a builder.

In Sydney after the final Test of England’s last tour he and his barmy pal Nigel spotted an open doorway. It led to a club members’ bar. "We went inside and there was no one there so we helped ourselves to a few pints. We then walked out and were approached by a fellow and his wife, he wearing full Australian Cricket Board gear."

He asked who we were and Collindridge’s quick-thinking friend claimed to be the England side’s physiotherapist.

The official’s wife then complained of a crook neck and Nigel offered his help.

"He looked at her and said; ‘oh you need to go to neck re-alignment classes’," Collindridge said. Impressed, she asked for Nigel’s autograph.

"Nigel signed, right next to Nasser Hussain (England’s previous skipper) adding, in brackets, ‘England psycho’."

England have become a power in cricket and are rated second in the world to Australia.

For many in the Barmy Army supporting a team who are the favourites to win a Test series is an entirely new experience.

West Midlands police officer Andy Thompson will only be in South Africa for three of the Tests but he is sure he won’t really miss anything. "I am quietly confident we will be three-nil up so I won’t have to watch the last Test at the Wanderers," he said.

Policeman Thompson and Collind- -ridge have been in PE a week and have seen some of its beaches and restaurants.

"Port Elizabeth is bigger that we expected," said Thompson.

"Everyone seems pretty friendly and there is good value for money. I love Castle Lager as well.

"That’s the problem with Australia – the beer there is crap."

Weekend Post
December 18, 2004.

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