Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

Malaysian Airlines disaster takes lives of two Newcastle fans


A memorial with candles that read “MH17" is seen with tissue, flower petals and a photograph of a Malaysia airline plane as unseen churchgoers pray for the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, at a church in Kuala Lumpur on July 18, 2014. A Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on July 17 in rebel-held east Ukraine, as Kiev said the jet was shot down in a ‘terrorist’ attack. AFP PHOTO/ NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

It’s easy to imagine the excitement of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, traveling abroad to see their beloved Newcastle United take part in a tour of New Zealand. How would the new signings look? Did manager Alan Pardew have the late-season skid sorted out?

Tragically, they will not witness the answer to those questions. Alder and Sweeney were among the 298 people aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 that was shot down over the Ukraine on Thursday afternoon.

The pair were incredible fans, and the club will pay tribute in a number of ways: black armbands during the tour of New Zealand as well as a dedicated area outside the stadium for memories and flowers.

Newcastle released this statement on their web site:

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.

The release also featured emotional quotes from NUFC managing director Lee Charnley and manager Alan Pardew, the latter referencing the attendance of Alder and Sweeney at Newcastle’s friendly against Oldham Athletic last week.Current and former players responded on Twitter, too:

All my prayers are going to the two Newcastle fans died in the flight yesterday.

— yohan cabaye (@YCabayeofficiel) July 18, 2014

Very sad to hear about the 2 NUFC fans who were involved in the plane crash yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with there families 🙏

— Ryan Taylor (@TaylorR1984) July 18, 2014

2 Geordies on plane MH17 travelling to watch Nufc in New Zealand. RIP John Adler and Liam Sweeney.. Our thoughts are with all the families!

— Tim Krul (@TimKrul) July 18, 2014

The Chronicle’s Sarah Scott told more of the deceased fans in two strong pieces.On Alder:

He became known amongst fans for always wearing a black suit, getting himself the nickname ‘The Undertaker’. Even in sweltering heat John would be seen in his suit, no matter what country he followed the team to.

In 1999 John was included in the Hall for Fans after not missing a United game since his visit to Queens Park Rangers in 1973.

On Sweeney:

“Liam has been a Newcastle fan all his life and been going to the away matches since 2007.

“He was going to Germany, every away match, every European tour.

“He worked the night shift in Morrisons in Killingworth. He’d been there for 10 years, they are all gutted.

“Everyone is going to miss him, family and friends.

A “howay the lads” to Alder and Sweeney, and our deepest sympathies to their families and friends.

Follow @nicholasmendola