Miles away from home: Poignant tribute to MH17 tragedy duo

Liam Sweeney
Liam Sweeney

There was a minute’s silence at the sports field Newcastle United have been using at California State University, Sacramento, yesterday morning.

It was a poignant moment.

It was a year to the day since John Alder and Liam Sweeney lost their lives while travelling to New Zealand to follow their team on tour.

They were on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine.

I knew John a little. We crossed paths at train stations, airports, hotels and bars several times a season.

And I wrote at the time that away days wouldn’t be the same without John, known as “The Undertaker” for the black suit he always wore to games.

They haven’t been the same.

The last time I saw him was after an away game at Arsenal in March last year. Typically, Newcastle had been beaten, and he had probably seen more defeats than anyone.

Yet he was happy and smiling. He was enjoying a drink among friends, and he had watched his team. He was doing what he loved.

I didn’t know Liam, but I’ve heard a lot about him. He was a young man living his dream.

It’s hard to comprehend what the families of John and Liam had to go through.

Both acted with incredible dignity.

No doubt John and Liam would have both been here in the USA following Steve McClaren’s side had it not been for tragic events of July 17 last year.

They’ll be missed at Bonney Field tonight.

And they will always be remembered by those who share the passion they had for Newcastle United.