NEWCASTLE United today led the tributes to the two fans who died when the Malaysia Airlines plane they were on crashed over the Ukraine.
John ‘The Undertaker’ Alder, from Gateshead, and Liam Sweeney, from Newcastle, were among the 298 passengers and crew killed.
They were on their way to New Zealand for Newcastle’s pre-season friendlies in Dunedin on Tuesday and Wellington next Saturday.
A statement issued by Newcastle United 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 said: “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, August 17.
Further information regarding this will be announced in due course.
Manager Alan Pardew added: “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.
“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.”