'Toon Army' fans among MH17 disaster victims

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 00:38 19/07/2014

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Two Newcastle United fans who were travelling to watch their football team play in New Zealand were among the victims of the Malaysian Airlines flight disaster.

John Alder, known to fans as ''John the Undertaker'', was on MH17 alongside fellow Magpies fan Liam Sweeney, 28.

Malaysian Airlines confirmed both names were on the passenger list, the BBC reported.

Alder, believed to be in his 60s, was well-known among Newcastle fans for always wearing a suit to games. He was also known for his mullet-style haircut.

The former British Telecom worker had only ever missed one game since 1973 and travelled to every away match.

Newcastle United released a statement saying they were saddened to learn two of the club's most loyal supporters had lost their lives on flight MH17.

Managing director Lee Charnley said the team's manager and players would wear black armbands for their upcoming games against Sydney FC and the Wellington Phoenix.

''The loss of John and Liam is truly devastating news,'' he said.

''Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike."

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said he and all the players were deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible news.

''We all knew how passionately John and Liam supported the team and the club,'' he said.

''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."

Both Adler and Sweeney travelled to Amsterdam before boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight destined for Kuala Lumpur.

Newcastle United fan website nufc.com said it was ''desperately sad'' to learn of their deaths.

''Our thoughts are with their friends, families and the many fans who knew them by sight. Watching Newcastle will never be the same again.''

Newcastle United play Sydney FC in Dunedin on Tuesday and the Wellington Phoenix in the capital on Saturday.

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