MANAGER Alan Pardew has paid tribute to the two Newcastle United fans who lost their lives on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
John Alder and Liam Sweeney en route to New Zealand on the aircraft, which was shot down over Ukraine last week.
The pair were travelling to watch Newcastle play in the Football United Tour 2014, which sees United take on Sydney in Dunedin tomorrow and Wellington Phoenix in the New Zealand capital on Saturday.
And their tragic deaths have overshadowed the four-team tournament.
A huge number of floral tributes and shirts have been laid outside St James’s Park in memory of Alder and Sweeney, both well-known and popular figures on Tyneside.
And a fund set up by a Sunderland fan initially to raise money for flowers for Alder and Sweeney has raised an incredible £22,000. The sum will be split between the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle.
Pardew – whose players will wear black armbands against Sydney – today held a Press conference in Dunedin along with captain Fabricio Coloccini, Siem de Jong and Vurnon Anita.
“For us, it’s important, firstly, to represent ourselves in the right manner in the light of losing John and Liam and get some strong results, because that’s what they’d have wanted,” said Pardew.
“In memory of those guys, we want this to be a successful tour.
“We’ll all wear armbands, and there’ll be a minute’s silence.
“It’s hurt the group, the tragic loss, and I’ll be playing a very strong side. It’s only right and fair in light of what has happened.
“I recognised John more than Liam. He was always at our games at all levels – his record is remarkable.
“It’s an unbelievable event that’s happened. We feel for their families, in particular.”
Pardew also paid tribute to the generosity of Sunderland supporters.
“There’s a lot made of the rivalry between the two cities, and of course it is there, but it’s always been on a competitive level,” he said.
“I’d like to thank all the Sunderland fans who have paid tribute and helped raise a staggering amount for the families.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle will have to look elsewhere for the last big signing – after losing out on striking targets.
Former loanee Loic Remy is close to joining Liverpool after the club activated his £8m release clause.
Remy – who scored 14 goals on loan at Newcastle last season – will now discuss personal terms over a move to Anfield.
And Alexandre Lacazette, 23, has committed his future to Lyon after weeks of speculation about his next move.
The striker told French TV: “I am staying at Lyon. I want to progress here.”
Both players had been on United’s transfer shortlist.
The club has signed six players, but Pardew is still looking to bring in an experienced striker.