Derby day initiative in honour of John and Liam takes another step forward
The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) has been working with both Newcastle and Sunderland fans to pave the way for derby matches not to have the levels of hatred and violence seen in recent times.
The aim is to retain the passion but without the extremes and to this end, the FSF organised a pre-Derby get together where fans of both Newcastle and Sunderland could come together.
The event (predictably!) passed off peacefully last night at the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle, a question and answer session with former United and Sunderland players Steve Howey and Kevin Ball, as well as a special appearance by top comedian Gavin Webster.
Obviously the campaign is a positive initiative and especially this year, with the fixtures computer somehow allowing the match to fall on the last weekend before Christmas when extra shoppers will exasperate the policing of the whole day.
Being realistic, without the devastating MH17 disaster of pre-season when Liam Sweeney and John Alder lost their lives along with hundreds of other, this movement for a more positive derby day experience would just be another worthy but doomed to failure initiative.
However, the joint fundraising by the two sets of fans in memory of John and Liam has quite literally moved the goalposts and changed the situation to a great extent, by just how far, we will only really find out when all the emotions of derby day are unleashed.
On hand though last night at the Bridge Hotel was Barry Sweeney, father of Liam, to give an emotional message to both sets of fans.
Speaking to the Chronicle Barry said;
“It’s a momentous moment and did we ever think this would have happened a year ago? Not likely.
“If we can move forward and keep it going, because the last two years have been a little bit nasty, let’s start enjoying the football, regardless of who wins.”
In honour of John and Liam;
“If we can carry Liam and John’s name forward in respect of the derby, go forward with it.
“I think if the two of them are looking down, they’re the two people that could change this forever. If that is it, good on two Geordies.”
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