Stuart Hall profiles this year’s Sports Personality of the Year contenders

The inimitable pundit gets stuck into this year's nominees

As the first snowflake falls, ’tis time for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year frolic. Transported to Salford, Sue Barker and Gary Lineker will don their best threads, Gary possibly still with fuzz on his face – a bad hair day for Widow Twankey, but a splendid time for gazing into Gary’s crystal ball. 

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First up, my Team of the Year. England’s flannelled fools duffed up Australia with some fizzy fast bowling and superb batting. Alastair Cook smashed 235 not out in the First Ashes Test, snatching the Don’s record at the Gabba. Cook then tickled another century in the Second Test, plus 189 in the Fifth. 

The one-day team drubbed Sri Lanka, before the Test side subjected India to a blitzkrieg of fast bowling on England’s green and unpleasant wickets. India’s ducking and diving was worthy of Gordon Brown on the green benches. That England then came unstuck on India’s specially prepared pitches was a glitch, an aberration. 

If there’s a prize for aberration, it must go to England rugby vice-captain Mike Tindall, aka aircraftman Tindall, for Nosedive of the Year – into the warm bosom of a friend. But I digress… There are two other teams in contention. 

First, Manchester City, proving that petrodollars do a team make: about £800 million, to be precise. Te-vez or not Te-vez, that is the question. Mr Mancini has heeded Hamlet’s warning and built a team to win everything. He could play his second team and still win the Premier League. 

Rob Roy of the twitching sporran, not seven leagues away in distance, a league away in class, must feel like Polonius run through the arras. 

My other nomination is Swansea City. Run by Brendan (Roy) Rodgers (and Trigger), their football is pure, clear, rhapsodic, stylish and cultured. The hub is one Leon Britton, once Mrs Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer but now the Welsh Swans’ mighty midget midfielder. 

Swansea will, like Blackpool, win nothing this season; but by Jove they both entertain, and that’s what football is about. Leon: for goodness’ sake, balance the books! 

Now to the Personality of the Year, as nominated by the nation’s newspaper sports editors. Those wielders of the willow Alastair Cook and England captain Andrew Strauss are worthy winners, but must doff their caps to Ulster’s wizards of the links. 

Rory McIlroy, who fried the chicken in Maryland, is not only the youngest golfer ever to lead on day one of the US Open, but he also set a new record of 16 under for the championship. 

Darren Clarke won the Open at Sandwich in July, his first win at a major at the tender age of 42.

Staying with golf – or goff, as we call it here – England’s Luke Donald crowned his grand tour of Europe by becoming world number one. 

In athletics, Dai Greene is European, Commonwealth and, as of 1 September at Daegu, world champion at the 400m hurdles. ’Tis rumoured that Angela Merkel is seeking advice. 

Mo Farah became the first Brit ever to win gold at 5000m in the world championships. Amir Khan continued to punch his way out of a paper bag and through the world of boxing. Wayne Rooney is in the frame as a world-class footballer. 

’Irsute Andy Murray is a contender, cutting a jib as the Incredible Hulk. If power and invective hold sway, let Federer tremble. But my vote goes to cyclist Mark Cavendish, a pocket Hercules, a pint pot of a chap from the Isle of Man. 

His sprinting in the Tour de France was spellbinding, busting through the flock of lycra like Concorde. And he did it on Place de la Concorde, winning the green jersey in Paris. How does he do it? Is it Isle of Man kippers? 

Off-piste, my personalities are those oligarchs who put money where hearts lie, in the local footie club. Peter Coates of Stoke, Steve Morgan of Wolves, Dr Eddie Davies of Bolton, the Boy Wonder, Bill Kenwright, of Everton. 

I empathise with Bill, under siege from marching chowderheads, sniping from within. Bill’s a theatre impresario, but like all of us buffeted by recession. What is he supposed to do, rub Aladdin’s lamp and produce a billionaire genie? 

Everton have pedigree and class, the School of Science; their motto Nil satis siss optimum (nothing but the best is good enough – keep up at the back!). They have fine young players, the future if not gold, then pinchbeck. So there! 

Between you and me, I’d vote for the Duke of Edinburgh. But since His carriage-driving Highness hasn’t make it to the BBC’s shortlist, I shall have to make do with reruns of the royal wedding. Happy Christmas, Your Royal Highness. Exit, pursued by a bear and Polonius. 

And the nominations are… 

Mark Cavendish Tour de France sprint king, winner of the coveted green jersey. 

Darren Clarke Long-odds Open champion, winning his first major at age 42. 

Alastair Cook England’s star batsman smashed the Aussies, lit up the Ashes. 

Luke Donald Won a tense play-off to be golf’s number one. 

Mo Farah Made history: Britain’s first world gold at 5,000m. 

Dai Greene European, Commonwealth and world champion hurdler. 

Amir Khan World light-welterweight champ, named British boxer of the year. 

Rory McIlroy Won the US Open with a stunning score of 268. 

Andrew Murray Moved ahead of Roger Federer to be world number three. 

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Andrew Strauss Captained England to back-to-back Ashes victories.