Deaths shadow Newcastle arrival in Dunedin

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 15:08 20/07/2014
Stuff.co.nz

Newcastle United have been welcomed to New Zealand ahead of their pre-season tour.

Alan Pardew
Fairfax NZ
KIA ORA: Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew exchanges a hongi with Komene Cassidy in Dunedin.

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Newcastle United have arrived in Dunedin for their pre-season tour amid the tragedy of flight MH17, which claimed the lives of two of the team's biggest fans.

Landing at Dunedin International Airport this afternoon, the team was greeted by local fans, bagpipers and the King's and Queen's High Schools' kapa haka group.

Speaking to reporters, manager Alan Pardew declined to discuss the two British fans who died in the MH17 tragedy.

John Alder, 60, and Liam Sweeney, 28, were passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine. 

They were on their way to New Zealand to watch their beloved team in action.

It is expected Pardew will talk about the men at a press conference tomorrow.

Pardew said he was looking forward to a "great challenge".

"It's fantastic for us, the football club, to come here and show our fans this part of the world, and we're prepared to come here and play," he said.

"It's pre-season for us, so it's about working hard and trying to get some kind of team spirit and unity in the team. We've got a lot of new players, so it's a good time to see us evolve."

The English Premier League side will play Sydney FC at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday night, and the Wellington Phoenix in Wellington next Saturday night.

Wreaths will be laid on the stadium seats where Alder and Sweeney would have sat and photos of the pair will be shown on the big screens before kick off.

A minute's silence will be observed before the match on Tuesday, and a minute's applause has been scheduled for the 29th and 60th minutes to represent Sweeney and Alder's ages.

Sydney FC and Newcastle players will also wear black armbands at the game in Dunedin. 

Both the deceased were lifelong fans of the club. It is understood that Alder had missed just one Newcastle home game since 1973 while Sweeney was well known as a volunteer steward on supporters' buses to away games.

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