NEWCASTLE UNITED manager Alan Pardew will field a strong line-up for the opening game of the club’s pre-season tour to New Zealand this morning in honour of two fans who tragically died on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The Magpies take on Sydney FC in Dunedin (kick-off 8:30am BST) just days after John Alder and Liam Sweeney were killed when flight MH17 came down in eastern Ukraine as they travelled to watch the team play in New Zealand.
New arrivals Ayoze Perez, Jack Colback, Siem de Jong and Emmanuel Riviere have all made the trip to the southern hemisphere, although Remy Cabella and Daryl Janmaat remain on holiday following their exploits at the World Cup.
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Newcastle players and staff will wear black armbands during this morning’s game, while a minute’s silence is also planned prior to kick-off in the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
“None of us would be sitting here without the fans,” Pardew told a pre-match press conference.
“Owners and managers come and go, as do players, but the fans are always there, and these two guys in particular, to go to the lengths that they did to get out here, has brought home just how important supporters are to us.
“Sometimes when you lose lives in that manner, it puts into context what we do.
“This season we want to give their families something to remember them by, by having a successful season.
“It's important we represent ourselves in the right manner, especially after losing John and Liam - our supporters who were travelling out here.
“We have to conduct ourselves well on and off the pitch and get some strong results.
“That is what they would have wanted and that is what we want, so in memory of those guys in particular, we want this to be a successful tour.
“We have to honour these guys in the right manner because it does mean a lot to us. Their tragic loss has hurt the group.
“I will be playing a very strong side. That is only right and fair in light of what's happened.”
Pardew also thanked supporters of North-East rivals Sunderland, who have raised over £25,000 in tribute to John and Liam.
He said: “A lot is made of the rivalry between the two cities, and of course that is there.
“But I would like to thank all the Sunderland fans who have paid tribute and helped raise a staggering amount already.”
Meanwhile, West Ham United co-owner David Gold has quashed rumours Andy Carroll could be sold to Newcastle.
Reports over the weekend suggested Carroll could be set for a return to Tyneside after the Hammers paid £12m for Ecuador striker Enner Valenica, but Gold responded to a fan on Twitter, saying: “I have no reason to believe that Andy Carroll is leaving.”