I was born in Northampton in 1951 and learned to read by studying the sports page of the Daily Express, before being more or less educated at Mrs Cherry’s nursery (long defunct, mercifully), Great Houghton Prep School (closed 2014), Carmel College (closed 1997) and Manchester University (still going, last I heard).
There being no pro pinball circuit on which to seek my fortune, and quiz machines yet to be invented, I was obliged to seek a job in newspapers. I worked on the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo (both now weekly not daily, with a fraction of their old staffing), Reuters, The Guardian (for 24 years) and, since 2004, for the Financial Times.
In addition to my journalism I have written various other books including Tickle the Public, a much-praised though little-bought history of the popular press, Extracts from the Red Notebooks, Eleven Minutes Late and now Engel’s England. In 2014 I also edited The Highlights, an anthology of the work of my late, great colleague Frank Keating.
I live in Herefordshire with my wife Hilary, daughter Vika and a lot of animals. My son Laurie died of cancer in 2005, aged 13. Since then the Laurie Engel Fund has raised £1.2m in his memory, first to build a new Teenage Cancer Trust unit, which opened to acclaim in 2010, and now to create a new ward that will enable the pre-teens to enjoy similar facilities. Of the thousands of articles I have written, the best-remembered by far is the story of Laurie’s illness.
I also edited 12 of the 151 (and counting) editions of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the so-called (though never by me) Bible of cricket.
One of my remaining ambitions is to see Northamptonshire win the County Championship, which is now most improbable. Or, failing that, for Northampton Town to return to the top division of English football, which they reached for a single season, 1965-66, before being relegated, rather unluckily.
That year they drew with Manchester United and Arsenal, and beat then-mighty Leeds and Aston Villa, all of which I did see, without quite believing it.