sport

Pardew: We will honour fans

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has dedicated the forthcoming season to the two fans who died in the Malaysian Airlines tragedy.

John Alder and Liam Sweeney were killed when flight MH17 came down in eastern Ukraine last week as they travelled to New Zealand to watch the Magpies play on their pre-season tour.

The club paid its own tribute to the pair at the Sir Bobby Robson statue at St James' Park, and members of the public have added their own in the days since.

However, Pardew is hoping his team can produce the kind of performances on the pitch next season to give their grieving families something to remember them by.

He said: "None of us would be sitting here without the fans.

"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."

Newcastle face Sydney FC on Tuesday in their opening fixture in the southern hemisphere, and Pardew has vowed to play a strong team.

He said: "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.

"On Tuesday, I will be playing a very strong side. That is only right and fair in light of what's happened."

The tragedy, in which a total of 298 people died, prompted Sunderland fan Gary Ferguson to set up a fund with the intention of raising money to buy flowers to lay at St James'.

His 100 target was reached within minutes as fellow Black Cats supporters answered his call, and with fans of other clubs also becoming involved, the total had reached in excess of 22,000 by Monday morning.

Pardew 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.

"I am very proud of Sunderland Football Club for the way they have conducted themselves and I want to thank them."