WE have reached that time of the year when a large number of sport columnists become consumed with the desire to pass judgement on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.

Lewis Hamilton winning Sunday’s UK event is as big a certainty as Newport County signing or releasing a player on a weekly basis, with the real excitement and debate for us on this side of the Severn Bridge to be found at last Sunday’s Welsh version of the traditional Christmas argument starter.

Has there even been a more worthy, inspiring and talented collection of individuals shortlisted for the main prize?

An undefeated boxer who stands alone in his brilliance, a talisman in a sport that makes the nation proud and four Olympians whose lifetime of dedication and hard work saw them reach the pinnacle of their respective sports during the glorious summer in Beijing.

Indeed, so impressive were the six nominees – Joe Calzaghe, Shane Williams, Nicole Cooke, Geraint Thomas, David Roberts and Tom James – that it would be almost impossible to pour scorn or question the wisdom of the result, particularly as it was voted for by the public.

What a shame then, that almost every headline, radio segment and pub argument since, has centred on the decision of the wise men and women of the ‘independent panel’ to award the team of the year award to Cardiff City.

Frankly, it was a ludicrous decision.

This isn’t another column bashing Cardiff City for the sake of it; I fully accept that the Bluebirds have had a great 2008, with plenty of reason to feel proud of their efforts.

Dave Jones is quite simply a top class manager, he has survived widespread criticism and even the dreaded vote of confidence from his chairman and currently has the Bluebirds in contention for promotion, surely a season before he would have been expected to do so with limited funds and focus on the new stadium.

I actually covered the Bluebirds before starting out on the Argus and turning my attentions to Spytty Park, having witnessed in person the low of relegation to League Two, the return to League One under Alan Cork, play-off heartache against Stoke City and the heroic FA Cup win over Peter Ridsdale’s Leeds United. It always gave me something to talk to Scott Young about.

When I defended Leighton James earlier this year and agreed with his view of Cardiff potentially winning the FA Cup as being good for Cardiff rather than Welsh football, it was not done with any malice as several of my friends are Bluebirds fans.

But winning six games, only one of them against a top flight side, is not a valid reason to be named team of the year, especially when it is inexplicably at the expense of a Grand Slam winning rugby side.

The road to Wembley was impressive, but hardly inspiring. Chasetown the lowest ranked side ever to make the third round, Hereford United of then League Two, league rivals Wolves and Barnsley and Premier League Middlesbrough vanquished on route to the final.

Cardiff edged out Barnsley in a nervy tie, but Barnsley beat Liverpool at Anfield and defeated a full strength Chelsea side, memories that will last a lifetime.

Against Portsmouth in the final, the Bluebirds never ultimately looked like winning the showpiece game. A fine achievement indeed in getting there, but not comparable to the efforts of Warren Gatland’s side.

The first cup final for 81 years. So what? That statistic is only indicative of eight decades of failure. Teams in the cup final in that time include Huddersfield (three times), Blackpool, Luton, Leicester, Ipswich, QPR, Brighton, Wimbledon, Coventry and Millwall. In each decade teams you’d never expect to get that far also got lucky with favourable draws.

It’s easy to dilute the achievement of the Grand Slam because it was preceded by the historic win under Mike Ruddock three years earlier.

I may be no enthusiast of the egg shaped game, but I remember the misery on the faces of my colleagues during the World Cup in 2007 and before that in the fall-out of Ruddock’s departure, Welsh rugby once again managing to be its own worst enemy.

Yet within a matter of months, Gatland has managed to turn the clueless Gareth Jenkins side that lost twice in their World Cup pool, into genuine world beaters.

The smash and grab win at Twickenham, a first in 20 years. Routine wins over Scotland and Italy, belief growing by the day. A courageous 16-12 victory in Dublin and then the splendid clincher over the aristocratic French, with the best defence in Europe under Shaun Edwards – conceding just two tries in five fixtures.

Not only that, but Gatland has gone on to mastermind that rarest of treasures for a Welsh rugby supporter, a southern hemisphere victory, Wales the only northern hemisphere side to beat a Tri-Nations country in the autumn internationals. For the first time ever, Wales are the highest ranked northern hemisphere side in the world.

After winning League One over 46 games and hitting the heights of the Championship instantly, one can almost make the case that Roberto Martinez’ Swansea would have even been more worthy team of the year recipients than Cardiff City, but with Gatland’s side so clearly the most deserving, it isn’t a necessary argument to make.

Quite simply, the judges got it wrong. They misjudged the mood of the nation, who let’s remember voted IRB world rugby player of the year Shane Williams to the title of 2008 BBC Wales sports personality.

Joe Calzaghe won last year and had an even better 2008, I would argue he suffered from both his fights being on at 5am on satellite television.

As ever the Olympic votes probably split each other, as they will on Sunday when Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy battle for second and third.

But unlike Calzaghe, Williams performed on a stage most of the country was able to watch; the unbridled celebrations of another Grand Slam widespread.

Williams is the shining jewel in the crown of a side that made the nation proud. Had the team of the year been a public vote, the will of the people would have been evident.

The Grand Slam side all deserved recognition, not just Williams.

l Without releasing it, while sharing more than a few beers with Enzo Maccarinelli and friends on Saturday evening, I was also in the company of Torquay United defender Chris Todd.

Chris’ younger brother James trains in the Team Calzaghe stable in Newbridge and Chris was in attendance to support friend Enzo at London’s Excel Arena, with everyone piling into a nearby hotel bar afterwards to watch the thrilling Manny Pacquiao victory over Oscar De La Hoya.

While his brother James will have his first battle in the ring this Sunday in Bristol, Chris currently has his own fight going on, against a more fearsome opponent, Leukaemia. He is writing an online column on his experience and his humour and attitude are, as trite as it sounds, truly inspiring, saying that his brothers fight makes him more nervous than a trip to the doctor!

Maccarinelli has expressed an interest in arranging a charity football match for Chris in the summer, anyone interested in getting involved with the event can contact me at michael.pearlman@southwalesargus.co.uk.