Dunedin-bound football fans on flight

Two Newcastle United fans on their way to New Zealand to see their football team's pre-season games - including one in Dunedin - were among the victims of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash in Ukraine.

John Alder, nicknamed "The Undertaker" and Liam Sweeney were flying to Kuala Lumpur and then on to New Zealand where they were going to support their club on the Football United Tour of New Zealand.

Newcastle United released a statement saying both men were familiar faces at every away game the club played.

"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."

 Manager Alan Pardew said in the statement that he and all the players were "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."

Newcastle United said the players and managers would wear black armbands for their games against Sydney FC and the Wellington Phoenix in Dunedin and Wellington next week.

The team will pay tribute to Mr Alder and Mr Sweeney at their first Premier League game against Manchester City on August 17.

 

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