Angus Fraser: Unique pleasure of beers with the Barmy Army

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The Independent Online

It is hard to believe Steven Gerard and Wayne Rooney would celebrate late into the night with England's travelling fans after winning the World Cup.

But not all sports are the same. It has become something of a ritual for England cricketers to celebrate an overseas victory with the "Barmy Army". It started in the Caribbean in the 1990s. Darren Gough loved a beer with the fans. I did too – even though there does exist a Rory Bremner DVD showing me in the early hours not looking how an England opening bowler should.

When Flintoff was caught in the "Fredalo" incident, he had been drowning his sorrows with the Barmy Army. They're an incredibly loyal group of supporters who faithfully follow the side through good and not so good times to all corners of the globe. They turn up at glamorous locations like Sydney and not so swish destinations like Dhaka. For players – be they Flintoff or Tim Bresnan – to have a beer with fans deserves applause, not disdain.

Travelling abroad to watch cricket is a major commitment and the players really appreciate the support they are given. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen did not go drinking with the Barmy Army because they felt they had to. They want to. The players enjoy the fun, songs, revelry – and free booze. They want to celebrate special moments with people who it means just as much to.

The ritual has always begun with several beers at the ground, then the hotel. A quick shower and change would be followed by an enquiring visit to the hotel bar, which would usually be where the party started. Then off to the Barmy Army's favoured watering hole. What time you got to bed depended on your stamina.