Newcastle United supporters John Alder (pictured) and Liam Sweeney died in the MH17 crash on their way to support their team in New Zealand.
Newcastle United supporters John Alder (pictured) and Liam Sweeney died in the MH17 crash on their way to support their team in New Zealand.Twitter/Paul Blacklock

Sunderland football supporters have raised more than £18,000 for a floral tribute to two Newcastle United fans who died in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash on Thursday.

Sunderland followers put their traditional rivalry with Newcastle United aside to raise the funds for the memorial to John Alder, 63 and Liam Sweeney, 28, who were travelling to support their team at an away game in New Zealand.

More than 1,800 people have contributed to the donations on fundraising site, far exceeding the initial £100 target. Any extra money will be donated to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Marie Curie.

Sunderland fan Gary Ferguson, who created the fundraising page, commented: "We may be Sunderland fans who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football game.

"The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened."

He added: "Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Thank you for your time, effort and donations. RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young."

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew said the team was deeply shocked and saddened by the deaths of Alder and Sweeney.

"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 United," he said.

"Our hearts go out to their families and friends."

Alder's niece Karen Robbins, who lives in Australia, said on behalf of the family: "We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and wishes and incredibly generous gestures. Our thoughts are with Liam's family and the families of the other passengers at this terrible time."

All 298 people on board flight MH17 died when the passenger jet was shot down over a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

Separatist leader Alexander Borodai said on Sunday that rebels have recovered the black boxes for flight MH17. Reuters also released a video showing a uniformed man salvaging the orange-coloured device from the crash site.