Sunderland fans have put aside fierce footballing rivalry to set up a charity fundraising page on behalf of two Newcastle United supporters killed in the MH17 plane crash above Ukraine.

John Alder, who was in his 60s and Liam Sweeney, 28, were on their way to follow their team on a pre-season tour of New Zealand when the plane came down.

Fellow Newcastle fan Liam Sweeney was just 28 years old. Credit: Facebook/Mark Sweeney

After a suggestion on the Sunderland Message Board fans forum, supporters set up the page on the Go Fund Me website, with thousands of pounds of donations quickly coming in.

The fans who set up the site left a heartfelt message on the page:

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.

Sunderland fans' message
Tributes to Liam Sweeney and John Alder outside Newcastle's St James' Park stadium. Credit: ITV News/Kenny Toal

Messages of support poured in from fans of both sides, with Newcastle fan Phil Dunn writing: "As a toon fan, all i can say is MASSIVE RESPECT to everyone who has donated."

Sunderland fan Chris Smith wrote: "As a SAFC fan to hear the death of 2 NUFC fans is deeply saddened me. Both sets of fans stand united in grief."