Premier League - Two Newcastle fans on tragic MH17 flight

Two Newcastle fans on their way to attend the club’s pre-season tour of New Zealand were on doomed flight MH17, the Premier League side have confirmed.

Premier League - Two Newcastle fans on tragic MH17 flight

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FOOTBALL St James' Park Newcastle United

"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," Newcastle said.

Sweeney, 28, and 60-something-year-old Alder had hopped from Newcastle to Amsterdam for a Malaysian flight to Kuala Lumpur, where after some down time they would have moved onto New Zealand to watch the friendly games the Magpies have arranged with Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix next week.

It is thought that Mr. Alder, affectionately nicknamed by other supporters as ‘The Undertaker’ for always wearing suits to matches, had missed just one game in more than 30 years, that being due to a family bereavement.

The statement continued: "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."

Tributes have began to pour in for the former BT worker, who was also known for his mullet-style haircut.

The number of Britons killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine has reportedly risen to nine.

Flight MH17 was said by eyewitnesses to have "exploded" after it was reportedly shot down by a ground-to-air missile.

In a statement released Friday morning, Malaysia Airlines said: "With immediate effect, all European flights operated by Malaysia Airlines will be taking alternative routes avoiding the usual route.”

Ukrainian officials say they believe all 283 passengers and 15 crew members died in the crash, which has been blamed by certain parties on separatist rebels.

However, no group has yet admitted responsibility for bringing the plane down.

Those on board included nine British citizens, 154 Dutch passengers, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, four from Germany, four from Belgium, three from the Philippines, and one from Canada.

Myself and all the players are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news," said manager Alan Pardew.

"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."

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.

"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."

Magpies goalkeeper Tim Krul has also paid his respects to the two men on Twitter.

He said: "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."

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