Herts Ad Comment: Saints under siege and Stephen Hawking remembered

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STOCK Generic office - Credit: Archant

One has to question the heavy-handed response which St Albans district council employed to seize an outstanding debt from the local football club.

If they had been chasing after cash from an unscrupulous, fly-by-night firm of dodgy dealers, then perhaps calling in a team of bailiffs might have been deemed necessary, but this is the Saints we’re talking about for Alban’s sake!

This is a local institution which has been playing at Clarence Park since 1908, has deep-rooted connections within the local community, and which has always been transparent in its business dealings.

Co-owners Lawrence Levy and John McGowan have pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds into securing the club’s future, and are striving to ensure it can become a sustainable concern.

They are also heavily involved in promoting football as a means of improving diet, exercise and well-being in local schools, and represent the Saints on various local organisations.

So how did SADC treat them? They sent unrecorded letters by post, threatening legal action, and then didn’t follow it up via phone call, email or any other form of communication before hiring a couple of burly bailiffs to demand immediate payment of the debt.

Had SACFC not paid up then they threatened to start removing fixtures and fittings, which would have included the very seats of the stadium!

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Where was the offer of mediation? Why did council leader Alec Campbell not get involved? Why was the communication between St Albans council and the club so poor?

Nobody refutes the notion that the council is entitled to collect outstanding debts, no matter who owes them, but this sort of response does nobody any favours.

There can be few former residents of St Albans who have gone on to receive the international acclaim bestowed upon physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who sadly died this week.

This was a man who overcame extraordinary physical obstacles to cement his reputation as one of the greatest thinkers of this or any other age.

He stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Einstein and Newton, a scientific pioneer whose discoveries have changed the way we view our place in the universe.

By coincidence, one of the only photos of the young Stephen attending St Albans School appeared in the pages of the Herts Advertiser, and it’s that vintage image which takes pride of place in this week’s tribute piece.

Even at that early stage in his life, long before he suffered from motor neurone disease, his academic achievements were notable both there and at St Albans High School for Girls, which he also briefly attended.

The inspiration he has provided for generations of subsequent pupils will not dissipate following his death, and will instead stand testament to his continuing influence on the city where he once lived.

He was a truly great Albanian, and will be sorely missed.