November 21, 2012

Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. This year we asked a select group of people from outside the staff to offer nominations for that honor. Ricky Hatton's selection was Manchester City football club, which won its first English league title in 44 years, and he explains why below as told to Bryan Armen Graham. Please vote for your Inspiring Performer, Photo of The Year, and Moment of The Year on our Facebook page.

I was born into a Manchester City family. My granddad, who was my dad's dad, used to play for Manchester City on the B team just before the war. My dad ended up playing for Manchester City in the reserves. I played two years as a junior at Manchester City's School of Excellence when I was 13 and 14. There was only one team I was really ever going to support. I went to my first Manchester City match when I was 10 and I've not looked back since.

It hasn't always been easy. Until last season City had not won the league title in 44 years, and we'd gone through more low points than most clubs. As a City supporter you've had to watch some rubbish over the years. What made it worse was the enemy down the road, Manchester United, winning 19 league titles. It had been painful to say the least. There were times over the past three years when it seemed the tide was turning, but nothing compared to what happened in May: when Manchester City finally won the league in the most exciting finish in Premier League history.

You could not write it. We were 2-1 down against Queens Park Rangers with five or six minutes to go, needing a victory to move level on points with Manchester United and win the title on goal differential. All the United fans were jumping: We've won it! We've won it!. Then we scored two goals in six minutes. The winner came in the last 20 seconds. The last kick of the game. You could not write it. I don't think it will ever be done again.

I was with Liam Gallagher from Oasis and we went out and celebrated with the players. It was a proud moment, not just because of the rubbish we'd been used to, but the success a few miles down the road of United that had been really painful for us. You'd go to the gym or you'd go to the pub and you'd see your mates who are United fans and they're always throwing it back at you. It was a long time coming, but the way they won it made it truly worth the wait.

For that, the entire Manchester City football club is my choice for Sportsmen of the Year.

It's impossible to pick just one player from the team. Vincent Kompany was voted the best defender in the Premier League and he was the captain. He was absolutely brilliant leading from the back. It was nip and tuck at the top of the league pretty much all the way through the season. It's the captain's job to keep the players' morale up and he did a monumental job, especially in the last few games. Another player who will go down in Manchester City history is Sergio Aguero, who scored that last goal against QPR. He will be forever remembered in the hearts of City fans for winning our first title in more than 40 years on the last kick of the game. Again, you couldn't have written it. So many other players came up huge: Joe Hart, Yaya Touré, David Silva, Mario Balotelli, James Milner, Gareth Barry each played a part in making history.

It's not like me to compliment Manchester United a great deal, but United's longevity of winning league championships, winning FA Cups, has been proven time after time. It gets heated. "You've only got it on loan," they say. "We've won 19, you've only won one." But I think it's hurt them. You say you've won 19, then what are you complaining about? Down in the streets and in the pubs, we've still got the bragging rights. When City beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford last October, I think it hurt Manchester United supporters more than it hurt losing the league to be honest. We went to their ground and banged six goals past them. It could have been 10.

I don't think anything will ever top what Manchester City was able to give their supporters last season. It was perfect. To be honest, I think United expected us to beat QPR in the last game. I think United fans had given up. I think they thought, "City's definitely going to beat QPR at home." And then we went down 2-1. Had we lost, I wouldn't have been able to show my face. It would have been absolute torture. We never would have lived it down. It's as if we teased them, we tormented them, we gave them that little glimmer of hope until the last 20 seconds -- and then we snatched it away from them. That's what hurt them more than anything. And it's what made it perfect for us.

Ricky Hatton MBE is the former light welterweight and welterweight champion of the world. He returns to the ring after a three-year hiatus against Vyacheslav Senchenko on Nov. 24 at Manchester's MEN Arena (5 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime).

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