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THE STARS WHO MADE US PROUD; Chance here for you to help select the Liverpool Echo Merseyside Sports Personality of the Year.

Byline: John Thompson Sports Editor

IT'S TIME to select Merseyside's Sports Personality of the Year.

And we want your help to choose the sportsman or woman who will inherit the prestigious Liverpool ECHO trophy from last year's winner, World Champion gymnast Beth Tweddle.

The winner for 2007 will receive our giant silver globe at a major awards ceremony in the city's new 10,000 seater ECHO Arena on Monday, February 4.

And you could be at the Kings Dock with us as we celebrate Merseyside's unrivalled sporting heritage in Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture.

Our 36th annual awards ceremony is being staged in association with football pools owners Sportech and will be hosted by Sky TV presenter, Jeff Stelling.

But before then our judging panel has to select the outstanding sporting talent to follow in a list of illustrious names.

In 2007 Liverpool Football Club came within one game of being crowned European Champions again, with Rafael Benitez leading out the Reds in the European Cup final in thens, before narrowly losing to AC Milan.

Skipper Steven Gerrard has enjoyed another fantastic season at Anfield, while the Reds' world class midfielder has also now been named as England's vice captain.

Other Reds contenders could well be goalkeeping hero Pepe Reina - the king of the clean sheets - or perhaps the ever dependable Jamie Carraqher Midfield terrier Javier Mascher-ano has instantly become a Kop favourite, while Fernando Torres' breathtaking finishing skills have illuminated Anfield since his pounds 20m summer move from Atletico Madrid.

Defenders Steve Finnan and Al-varo Arbeloa have been among the Reds lesser sung heroes, while Yossi Benayoun has arrived to delight the crowd with his craft and his goals - three of them notably in the record-breaking 8-0 Champions League demolition of Besiktas.

Goodison Park has seen just as many potential contenders emerge.

Spanish ace Mikel Arteta has continued to thrill with his magical ball skills, while the goals returned with Tim Cahill as the Australian star came back from injury to help the Blues go on an unbeaten run currently stretching to eleven games.

It was a year when David Moyes led his men into Europe again, and where crucial goals from young Victor Anichebe in Kharkiv and Nurem-burg helped ease their progress into the UEFA Cup's knockout stages.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard has been a star both for Everton and America, while rock solid Jo-leon Lescott was given his first England caps after shining consistently in defence.

Up front Nigerian striker Yakubu arrived as a record signing and has showed an unnerving eye for goal, culminating in his first hat-trick for the Blues last weekend. Others who have caught the eye include versatile captain Phil Nevile, Joseph Yobo, the evergreen Alan Stubbs, Lee Carsley and Leon Osman.

Tranmere Rovers got off to a flying start in League One this season, and despite recent slips Ronnie Moore and his men have excelled in the FA Cup. Ian Goodison - the League One North West Player of the Year - was recalled to the Jamaican national side after a series of outstanding displays, while keeper Danny Coyne performed solidly along with striker Chris Greenacre.

In golf, Liverpool's Nick Dougherty had a storming year. The Crosby ace led the US Open after day one before going toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods on day three, eventually finishing seventh at Oakmont in June.

More recently, 25-year-old Bootle-born Dougherty beat the likes of Ernie Els and Justin Rose to win his second European Tour event - the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which climaxed at St Andrews. Dougherty is now targeting next year's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and is set to be a key member of the European Ryder Cup team under Nick Faldo next September in Kentucky.

Joining Dougherty on the 2008 European Tour will be Southport's Lee Slattery and Wir-ral's Paul Waring.

In rugby league, St Helens came within one game of repeating their glorious treble under Australian coach Daniel Anderson.

Saints retained the Challenge Cup as it returned to Wembley and finished top of Super League to retain the League Leader's Shield.

There were outstanding performers everywhere last season, including from Man of Steel James Roby, Keiron Cunningham, Paul Wel-lens, Matt Gidley and Maghull's James Graham. But Saints fell just short in the Grand Final at Old Trafford in October, losing a mighty clash with Leeds.

Widnes, meanwhile, enjoyed and endured a turbulent season, winning the Northern Rail Cup but just missing out on promotion back to Super League.

After going into administration, the Vikings are now reborn under new owner Steve O'Connor, with coach Steve McCormack ready to launch a fresh assault next season.

In rugby union, Crosby's former Waterloo lock Ben Kay was at the heart of the England pack which reached the World Cup final in Paris.

Cricket also sawa number of notable achievements, with Liverpool's Paul Horton, 25, being honoured as Lancashire's Player of the Year The county's opening batsman scored more than 1,000 first class runs, including three centuries in his breakthrough year.

The last 12 months have been fantastic for British boxing, with more world champions now than ever. Naturally Liverpool has been playing its part.

Flag-bearer for Merseyside remains featherweight star Derry Mathews. After capturing the WBU world title at the back end of 2006, Mathews went on to make two successful defences this year.

First he climbed off the canvas to outpoint Scotland's John Simpson at Liverpool Olympia in March. Then he halted previously unbeaten challenger Matthew Marsh in the 11th round when he topped the bill at London's famous York Hall.

Meanwhile, Paul Smith blazed a trail across the States with his success in The Contender show, adding to his punch-perfect now 22-0 record. While Tony Bellew, Geard Ajetovic, Nathan Brough and John Watson are heading a cavalcade of prospects fighting their way to the top.

The amateur code is flourishing too. The city's three Olympic hopefuls - David Price, Neil Perkins and Stephen Smith - have been joined by Tom Stalker and Paul Butler in the elite national squad. And all harbour dreams of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics next summer.

In athletics, Southport star Michael Rimmer firmly established himself as Britain's number one 800mrunner in 2007.

Among the highlights for the talented Liverpool Pembroke-Sefton runner was his second place in the European Cup and victory at the UK Championships and World Trials.

The 21-year-old also claimed some notable scalps on the prestigious Golden League circuit and lowered his personal best to 1:45.17.

Nobody in Britain jumped higher than Liverpool-based athlete Martyn Bernard this year.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist added to his collection in March when he won bronze at the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham, with a PB of 2.30m.

But the 22-year-old endured a bitter-sweet trip to the World Championships in Osaka.

He set a new outdoor personal best of 2.29m but his medal hopes were wrecked by injury.

Liverpool Harriers sprinter Anyika Onuora was part of the triumphant relay team at the European Cup in Finland which helped Britain regain their Super League status.

The 22-year-old missed out on an individual place in the GB squad for the World Championships but went to Japan as part of the relay team.

Vicky Griffiths enjoyed a memorable year as she climbed up the British rankings. The Liverpool Harriers 800m runner was crowned North of England champion, represented England at the pre-Bislet Games and finished fourth in theWorld Championship Trials.

The 22-year-old from West Derby completed the season in style by clinching the UK Challenge series final at Crystal Palace as she set a new personal best of 2:01.49.

And of course last year's Merseyside Sports Personality of the Year Beth Tweddle continued to hit the headlines.

Liverpool's Park Road-based British champion made up for an uncharacteristic error on the asymmetric bars in the GlasgowGrand Prix by starring on the floor to take the podium from Czech Nicole Pechancova.

Tweddle, the 2006 world champion on the asymmetric bars, is now targeting gold at the Olympics next year.

To nominate your choice for the shortlist email us at sport@liverpoolecho.

co.uk. Alternatively you can call 0901 657 0186 or text LESPORTPER and send your favourite to 84080.

Calls cost 60p while texts cost 50p plus standard message rate.

Full Trinity Mirror terms and conditions are available on request and can be viewed at www.liverpoolecho.com/rules.

CAPTION(S):

TOP OF THE WORLD: Last year's winner Beth Tweddle and, right, Ben Kay who played in the Rugby World Cup final; SUPER HEROES: Nick Dougherty, top left, Steven Gerrard, and Everton's Mikel Arteta; MAKING THEIR MARK: Clockwise, Fernando Torres, Derry Mathews, Tim Cahill and Paul Horton all mage a huge impact on Merseyside sport during 2007
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 13, 2007
Words:1458
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