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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Bitter Football Rivals Newcastle United And Sunderland Come Together Over Tragedy

19/07/2014 11:14 BST | Updated 19/07/2014 15:59 BST
Tom White/PA Wire
Flowers and football shirts around the Sir Bobby Robson statue outside Newcastle football ground after two fans died on board flight MH17 which was shot down over the Ukraine.

UPDATE: Looters 'Rifle Through Newcastle Fan's Belongings At MH17 Crash Scene'

Newcastle's bitterest rivals, Sunderland, have raised more than £8,000 in just 17 hours for a floral tribute to the two NUFC fans killed on flight MH17 and the total keeps going up.

The aim was to raise £100 for flowers and a message showing how fans can come together in tragedy, with any surplus going to charity.

The emotional fundraiser states:

We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games.

The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened.

Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided.

Thank you for your time, effort and donations.

RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young.

DONATE HERE

newcastle mh17

Football fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney, 28, were on their way to watch their beloved team's pre-season tour of New Zealand.

The Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on Thursday with 298 people on board.

malaysia airlines

Liam Sweeney

READ MORE: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: First Pictures Of The Tragic Victims Emerge

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew said yesterday that his players were "deeply shocked and saddened" after the two "dedicated" fans died on board flight MH17.

Mr Alder, who was in his 60s was apparently known to other fans as The Undertaker because of his tradition of wearing a suit to every game and was known for his mullet-style haircut.

He is thought only to have missed a single match since he started attending in 1973, and follows the team around the world for their away games.

His neighbour, Margaret Bambra, 66, said "he was a lovely guy, never bothering anyone."

"He went to every game, he never missed a match. He was Newcastle-mad," she told the BBC.

Fans' website NUFC.com said: "We're desperately sad to report that they were John Alder and Liam Sweeney.

"Both were well known to away followers, particularly John, whose usual matchday attire led to the affectionate nickname of "The Undertaker".

The club said both men were familiar faces at every United away game and attended reserve and academy matches as well as first-team games.

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."

The club said it will dedicate an area surrounding the Sir Bobby Robson statue for fans to pay their respects to both men, and the manager and players will wear black armbands for both their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix.

Meanwhile, a Premier League footballer has apologised for posting a selfie on Twitter showing him grinning as he flew to New Zealand.

Super fans John Adler, 63, and Liam Sweeney, 28, were killed while making the same journey on doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to see their beloved Newcastle United play in a pre-season tour.

United's Haris Vuckic posted a tweet, which was later deleted, showing him and defender Paul Dummett on board a plane, with the tag: "New Zealand!! Here we come!! @PaulDummett preseason!! SleepTime"

After removing the message, the 21-year-old Slovenian tweeted: "My apologies if anyone was offended by my photo from the plane. No offence was intended. We are thinking of John and Liam. #RIP #NUFCfamily"