Plans have been announced to commemorate the lives of Newcastle United supporters John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who tragically died on flight MH17 on July 17.
The club, in close co-operation with John and Liam’s families, will pay formal tribute to the two men at the first home game of the season against Manchester City on Sunday, August 17.
Captains Fabricio Coloccini and Vincent Kompany will lay wreathes at the centre circle before kick-off, accompanied by representatives from John and Liam’s families as well as Jimmy Montgomery on behalf of Sunderland AFC, whose supporters Magpies chiefs want to thank publicly for their fundraising efforts.
A minutes silence will then be observed once both teams have entered the field.
United’s managing director Lee Charnley said: “Our thoughts and our primary concern since the tragic events of July 17 have been focused on supporting the families of John and Liam in any way we can, and paying tribute to the two men in an appropriate and respectful way to reflect the sorrow felt not just from our supporters, staff, management and players but from the football community as a whole.
“We have received so many messages of condolence from across the football family and the compassion expressed by supporters of all allegiances has been very touching.
“We all understand that our supporters travel significant distances and make many sacrifices to support their respective teams, and the fact John and Liam lost their lives in the course of travelling across the world to support their team is something felt by everyone.
“What has been particularly heartening has been the tremendous support shown by the staff and supporters of Sunderland.
“I would like to pay particular thanks and respect to Gary Ferguson whose incredible fundraising efforts have to date raised £33,000 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle, at the request of both families.
“Whilst the will to win and competitive tension between our two clubs will of course remain, I am sure the actions of Gary and the many other Sunderland supporters who donated to this fantastic fundraising effort, together with Sunderland AFC who have also been in constant contact with messages of support, has created a new level of respect between our supporters which I am sure will be reflected when the teams meet in the future.
“The north east is an amazing place and the sentiments and actions since this tragedy have shown that in times of difficulty the region comes together as one - black and white or red and white.”
He added: “In addition to the tributes to be paid against Manchester City it was very important for us not just to remember Liam and John at our opening game, but in the years to come, to reflect their dedication and support for the club.
“To this end we will also be creating The Alder Sweeney Memorial Garden which will be a lasting memorial to both men and will become the focal point for all supporters to remember those who are sadly no longer with us.
“The club has also created The Alder Sweeney Community Award in their memory.
“This annual award will recognise the efforts of an individual or organisation in the north east that has made an outstanding contribution in their community, often, but not exclusively, through their participation in Newcastle United Foundation projects and initiatives.”
The Alder Sweeney Memorial Garden will be situated outside the main entrance to the Milburn Stand at St James’ Park. The garden will be officially unveiled in a ceremony, on a date and time to be announced, but prior to the club’s home fixture against Crystal Palace.