Billy Cooper, the Barmy Army's trumpet player, to retire

Billy plays alongside Geoffrey Boycott, New Zealand, 2015
Billy plays alongside Geoffrey Boycott, New Zealand, 2015

For many, he's the soundtrack to the England cricket team.

Jerusalem being belted out? It's the first over of the day. Rocky theme? David Warner must be walking out to bat. Simply the Best? Ah, that means Dom Sibley's going well.

Sibley the best - geddit?!

But Billy Cooper's trumpet will soon be no more. After 16 years of rousing England's fans and players alike with his greatest hits, Cooper - a classically trained musician who can usually be found in cricket grounds the world over - has decided to call it a day.

Certainly when it comes to touring anyway - the current Test against South Africa will be his last one (at least in an official capacity).

"It's more complicated now, with a wife and kids," he tells BBC Sport, finding a quiet place to chat on the phone just as Zak Crawley scores his maiden Test 50 ('Land of Hope and Crawley'!).

It's a big moment and the Barmy Army are in full song behind him.

"It's good to be going out on a high," Cooper says, as England march towards a series win. Victory in the current Test in Johannesburg would be only the 15th win he has seen in 52 Tests abroad.

Billy in Johannesburg, 2016
Billy Cooper in Johannesburg, 2016

But how did Cooper get here in the first place? This, after all, is a man who has played in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Matilda in the West End.

His involvement with the group came about quite organically. Back in 2004, out in Barbados for the third Test against the West Indies, Billy, a professional musician, had to report his blue trumpet stolen after misplacing it.

The next Test was in Antigua.

"I didn't have anything to do with the Barmy Army back then, but I heard that noise and I saw it was my trumpet," Billy explained.

He says he approached the members of the Barmy Army about the trumpet, who subsequently asked him to prove it did indeed belong to him.

That, of course, wasn't a problem - and it soon led to a "sing-song" with the gang, where Billy met Paul Burnham, one of the founding members of the Barmy Army.

"Paul said 'we'd love you to come to South Africa with us for the next Test and we can pay for your flights'," Billy recalled.

The rest is history.

His first year with the supporters group began well, with England winning the Ashes in 2005 - their first win since 1986-87.

That brought about one of his proudest memories when victorious skipper Michael Vaughan invited him on stage at Trafalgar Square during the celebrations that followed.

There have been lows too. Billy cites the 2006-2007 Ashes, when England were walloped 5-0 and he was banned from playing his trumpet in the stadium.

"I don't think the Aussies wanted a home game to feel like an away game by letting us make too much noise," Billy observes.

Billy had been escorted from The Gabba by officials after celebrating, sparking a row over the use of musical instruments in the stadium.

He tells us the number of losses he's witnessed have made the wins all the sweeter.

And he says touring the world with England over the past 16 years has become addictive.

"You leave behind the winter in England for someone else's summer."

For now though, he's happy to call it a day: "I don't want to overstay my welcome."

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