For better or for worse many of us will be heading to St James’ Park yet again today. We will have a familiar sense of anticipation as we click through the turnstiles and the bon hommie between friends we haven’t seen much of since May will return and remind us why we follow our famously maddening, infuriating football club.
We will take our seats, looking out across the lush green turf of St James’ Park and take in the grandeur of our old home, the place where generations of Black & Whiters have thronged to laugh, cry and urge on the lads in the colours of Newcastle United. We might pause to think of the special times we have had here, the moments which are burned into our soul, the ties that bind us together.
But two of our friends will be missing. We may not all of have known them, though many did but John Alder and Liam Sweeney, were our friends. We shared a passion for Newcastle United with them, we breathed the same air, we spoke in the same twang, we shared the same history and most of all, we loved the same football club.
But for the madness that shot down Flight MH17 over the Ukraine, John Alder and Liam Sweeney would be taking their seats at St James’ Park today. Doubtless they would have been talking about great trips to New Zealand and Germany with their mates, having a pint or two before the match and discussing what Newcastle United has in store for us this season.
Two decent, dedicated football supporters have been killed as a result of a conflict, I doubt neither had a clue about with hundreds of other innocent men, women and children. It is pointless looking for any logic to their deaths. There is none.
I cannot praise Newcastle United enough for the dignity it has shown in marking the passing of John and Liam. The plans to mark the deaths of two of our friends today are excellent. There will be sadness, dignity and warmth for not only John and Liam but also for their friends and families whose loss is felt far more profoundly than our own.
I am sure every single one of us will mark this moment with the dignity it requires.