In his press conference yesterday for the derby game against Sunderland tomorrow, Alan Pardew paid Sunderland and their supporters compliments more than once, and this is the first derby since we lost Newcastle fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney in those tragic circumstances on July 17th over Ukraine, when their Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down and all aboard were killed.
John Alder and Liam Sweeney
And Sunderland supporters rallied around Newcastle fans in their grief for John and Liam, and that has changed the relationship between the two sets of fans forever, and for the better too.
Sunderland fans and Sunderland FC were simply magnificent in their response to the tragedy, and of course it didn’t go unnoticed and was widely reported around the world.
Alan Pardew talked about that response yesterday:
“Sunderland’s conduct has been impeccable really.” “For them to come across the bridge like that, it’s important that we meet them in the right way.”
“I think we have, and all the signals this week have been tremendous. I’m so pleased about that.”
The hope is that the derby atmosphere will now be much less toxic, and that each derby will honor John and Liam as an example of north-east fans who support their two clubs so magnificently, and the two of them have literally given their lives in support of Newcastle.
Sunderland fan Gary Ferguson set up the fund for charity at the time, and wrote these words:
“We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games.”
“The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. “
“Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided.”
“Thank you for your time, effort and donations.”
“RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young.”
That little act of human kindness from Gary changed everything.
We all realized in the summer what life’s real priorities are, and the hope now is that there will be a lot more solidarity between Newcastle and Sunderland supporters.
That was shown over the summer and there’s no reason why it cannot be continued while we at the same time keep our passions and support for our own clubs.
There will be the usual one minute’s applause after 17 minutes in the game on Sunday, and it will be very very special on Sunday at St. James’ Park.
We hope the way the game is played and the way each set of supporters conduct themselves on Sunday can also be a tribute to John and Liam.
We thank the Sunderland fans for their response in the summer which brought us all closer together – and as Alan Pardew rightly says – it was impeccable.
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