SHOCK and sadness greeted the discovery that two Newcastle Utd fans were among the 298 people who perished when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed.

Supporters John Alder and Liam Sweeney were travelling to watch their team take part in a pre-season tournament in New Zealand.

The pair were well-known among Newcastle fans.

Loading article content

Mr Alder, who is believed to have been in his 60s and was a retired BT worker from Deckham in Gateshead, had not missed a home or away game since 1973.

Friends nicknamed him "the Undertaker" because he would always wear a black suit to matches.

Mr Sweeney, from Westerhope, Newcastle, was a volunteer steward on supporters' buses and, like Mr Alder, was a regular at reserve and academy games, as well as first-team matches.

Family of the 28-year-old, who worked nights at Morrisons in Killingworth, spoke of their heartache at his death.

His brother Marc said his beloved team "were his everything".

"We all can't believe it, he was so happy when he managed to afford to go to New Zealand to follow his team- we've had some lovely messages from everyone that knew him."

His father Barry visited the memorial for him and Mr Alder at St James' Park.

He said: "He was a kind, generous, hard-working lad who was on his way to watch football and he ends up being killed by an act of war.

"Someone has to be held responsible for what happened to my lad."

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said he and the players were deeply shocked and saddened at the fans' deaths.

"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 Utd."

Managing director Lee Charnley added: "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."

Newcastle players past and present also paid tribute to the pair on Twitter.

Goalkeeper Tim Krul tweeted: "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!"

Defender Paul Dummett expressed his sadness on the social networking site.

He said: "R.I.P to all involved in flight MH17 crash. Especially the 2 NUFC fans. Thoughts with families of John Alder and Liam Sweeney."

And ex-Newcastle player Joey Barton spoke of his sorrow at the deaths.

He said: "Devastated to hear that two Newcastle United fans died on the Malaysian flight. Thoughts are with all the families at this tragic time RIP x."

Scores of fans from other clubs used Twitter to pass on their condolences.

Supporter Aidan Moran was one of dozens of Sunderland fans to set aside the rivalry between the two clubs and pass on his best wishes.

He tweeted: "Horrible to hear of any football fans being killed on their way to support their team. RIP John Alder & Liam Sweeney."

Newcastle's players and the manager will be wearing black armbands for both their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix during the Football United Tour of New Zealand.

A tribute will also be paid to the two men at the club's first Premier League game against Manchester City on August 17.