Choosing one’s favourite books from the thousands to have been entered for the WHSBOTY during its thirty-plus year existence is a task akin to that of the subjects of Desert Island Discs selecting their favourite half a dozen or so records from the thousands they have heard.

However, a record takes a few minutes to listen to and you can do it several times a day if you wish, whereas a book demands rather more commitment to absorb and appreciate fully.

Nonetheless I’ve sat down and chosen my favourite five books ever entered for the ‘William Hill’ thus far.

I have always read all the entered books each year, whether I was a participating member of the judging panel or merely an interested observer come decision time.

Usually, I was watching and listening, keeping my own thoughts to myself as the judges deliberated, discussed, and debated towards their decision. Sometimes I would agree with them, sometimes not.

In 1992, when just the fourth ever winner was to be chosen, I was desperate that it should be Nick Hornby’s ground-breaking ‘Fever Pitch’, even though I am no Arsenal fan. But the sheer quality and innovative style of the book shone through, and it was a significant moment for both the WHSBOTY and Hornby himself as we were the first to recognise his extraordinary and soon more widely lauded abilities with an award, after which he went on to land all manner of prizes for his follow-up works – although he was pretty much then lost to sports writing.

Nick has remained a friend of the WHSBOTY ever since and a couple of years ago happily took part in an on-stage discussion about sports books as part of our promotional events for that year.

Come the year 2000, the Judges selected the most controversial of winners, but also one of the most readable and discussed sports books of all time. ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ was most appropriately titled, and was written by award-winning author Sally Jenkins and her subject, one Lance Armstrong, the world’s most astonishingly successful but equally controversial cyclist.

I well remember one of our judges musing out loud as we decided on the winner – ‘And what if it transpires that Lance…?’ but it was agreed that we could only make the decision based on what we knew for sure at that point. It remains an astonishing book when read today.

In 2005, Gary Imlach won with ‘My Father And Other Working Class Heroes’ in which the broadcaster and journalist revisited key periods in his father Stewart’s football career to build up a picture of his life. I (almost) forgave him the fact that his dad had been Man of the Match for Nottingham Forest in the 1958-59 FA Cup Final in which they beat the team I supported then and still do, Luton Town, by 2-1.

We were always determined not to divulge the outcome of the judges’ deliberations pre-result announcement. Even authors from far-flung lands have been given no indication as to whether their lengthy journeys will prove in vain when invited over, yet they have still come – other than Laura Hillenbrand, who was confined to one room when she wrote the amazing 2001 winner, ‘Seabiscuit’, and was medically prevented from making the journey.

In 2014 author Anna Krien felt so honoured to be shortlisted that she happily flew over from Australia, arriving jet-lagged of course, having been given no clue to whether or not she had won.

Her ‘Night Games’ was an unflinching exposé about the unhealthy macho culture and misogyny in Aussie sport, with a relevance far beyond its main focal point, which was the trial of a young Australian Rules Footballer accused of rape. It was essential reading and her trip over was very worthily rewarded with the prize.

The books I have so far discussed have been winners, but my absolute favourite of all did not win.

In October 1999, I sat and listened, powerless, as the judges found themselves in a situation in which they just could – or would – not agree on a unanimous winner, despite being offered more time in which to do so.

Eventually they did agree that the book they would all least object to winning should take the accolade and announced that Derek Birley’s ‘A Social History of English Cricket’ – an excellent work in its own right – was their choice.

I could have cried, and did indeed shed a small tear, that the book which I had by then already read twice and have since returned to every couple of years just to make sure I wasn’t wrong, wasn’t given the reward it deserved and demanded.

To his credit, the author of ‘The Miracle Of Castel di Sangro’, the late Joe McGinniss, who flew over from the States, could not have been more magnanimous to discover that he had been beaten by a book about a sport of which he knew nothing.

But for me this will, I’m sure, always remain the single most affecting and astonishing tale of an almost impossible-to-believe sporting adventure that I have read. If you don’t know it, you have a major treat in store when you find a cop. And if you have read it, you surely must agree with my verdict that it is the finest sportsbook yet written.