Newcastle United pay tribute to fans on felled Malaysian Airlines flight

WRECKAGE: From the felled plane
WRECKAGE: From the felled plane

TWO Newcastle United fans were among nearly 300 people who died when the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine.

John Alder and Liam Sweeney were travelling on the doomed plane to New Zealand to watch their beloved Magpies play two pre-season friendlies.

The club have today paid a lengthy tribute to the pair and are to mark their deaths at their first home league game of the season.

A Newcastle spokesman said: “It is with great sadness that we learn today the tragic news of the deaths of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, two of the club’s most loyal supporters, who lost their lives on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which crashed on Thursday afternoon in Eastern Ukraine.

“John and Liam were travelling out to New Zealand together to support Newcastle United in the forthcoming Football United Tour, which takes place next week in Dunedin and Wellington.

“Both men were familiar faces at every Newcastle United away game and attended not only first team games but reserve and academy matches too.

“John was a lifelong supporter and a familiar sight in the stands for almost half-a-century, having barely missed a single game in that time.

“Liam will be known to many fans during his time volunteering as a steward on supporters’ buses to away games.”

Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley added: “The loss of John and Liam is truly devastating news.

“Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike.

“On behalf of everyone at Newcastle United we send our deepest condolences to John and Liam’s families and friends.

“The club will be dedicating an area surrounding the Sir Bobby Robson statue for fans to pay their respects to John and Liam.

“The manager and players will also be wearing black armbands for both their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix in the Football United Tour of New Zealand.

“Arrangements will be made to pay tribute to the two men at the club’s first Premier League game against Manchester City on Sunday, 17th August. Further information regarding this will be announced in due course.”

Manager Alan Pardew said: “Myself and all the players are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news.

“We all knew how passionately John and Liam supported the team and the Club.

“They were with us just earlier this week for our first pre-season friendly against Oldham and their dedication to travel all the way around the world to support us in New Zealand tells you all you need to know about the passion they had for Newcastle United.

“Our hearts go out to their families and friends.”

Officials from the airline said 298 people were on board the Boeing 777-200 when it was apparently shot down over war-torn Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile as it travelled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.