FHM chats to James Bannon, a former undercover police officer who, aged just 21, posed as a football hooligan to infiltrate a firm in the 80s. He came unbelievably close to being rumbled…
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT BOOK SMARTS
I didn't really do school. I just didn't get it. But when I went to police training school, I proved that I was quite fearless, had an opinion and wasn't afraid to vocalise it. My work ethic was good; I worked really, really hard and wanted to do the best job possible. I think that's why I was selected to work as a plain clothes police officer within 2-3 months of coming out of training school.
BE ON THE BALL AT ALL TIMES
Every time you step out the door, you're leaving yourself wide open. It only takes someone to recognise you from school or from your sister or your mum's best mate's dog.
You're always under pressure, so you have to be 100% on your game at all times. At the same time, you have to give the impression that you're totally laid back when, really, you're quietly shitting yourself inside.
If you whole-heartedly believe what you're telling someone, they'll believe you. I never looked at is as lying, I looked at it as enhancing my cover and I needed to do that for my own morality and moving forward.
The closest I ever came to being rumbled was when there were seven or eight people, surrounding me and the sergeant I work with, accusing us of being policemen. I think the reason we got away with it was that I was genuinely affronted. How could someone have the audacity to accuse me of that?
If you get sussed out, it means two things: one, you're in trouble. Two, you're no good at your job. I thought I was good at what I was doing so it really did piss me off.
I had to think of something really, really quickly. We were playing a quiz machine in the pub and I just erupted, lost my temper and pushed the machine over. I got all aggressive and it was then that I announced I couldn't read or write. That then took away any suspicions the rest of the firm had that I was a cop.
DOUBLE BLUFFS ACTUALLY WORK
Much later on in the operation, I actually got one of the guys to arrest this bloke I bought drugs from. It was for a wind-up. I convinced him that I was a police offer too…if you can get your head around that. This bloke was absolutely petrified of being nicked by the old bill and the rest of the guys thought it'd be really funny if I made out to be a policeman, so that's what I did.
It was a double bluff. I found it hilarious. The sergeant I was working with didn't. He thought I'd become unhinged.
UNDERSTAND THE RULES
When a situation is life-threatening or young people are compromised, you have to step in. If you see someone get beaten up on the train in front of their wife and kids, you have to make a snap decision.
He got pretty banged up but wasn't going to get killed. Had the other bloke pulled a knife, it would have been a totally different scenario. The victim didn't report it in the end anyway. It wasn't acceptable but it was about levels and we knew we could nick the guy at a later date.
Running with the Firm, My Double Life as an Undercover Hooligan by James Bannon is available to buy from June 5. James Bannon’s critically acclaimed one-man show ‘Running with the Firm’ is back at the Soho Theatre Tues 3rd-Sat 7th June.