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Celtic respect heat and history

Celtic FC manager Martin O'Neill is concerned about the sweltering Seville heat before the UEFA Cup final.

Final return
For Celtic FC, taking part in their first UEFA final in 33 years, the heat and the weight of history seemed to be on manager Martin O'Neill's mind as he addressed the media on the eve of the Scottish club's biggest match in decades.

Ready to adjust
"It is very, very hot," was O'Neill's opening remark. "We are pleased that we came out on Sunday to adjust to the weather, which is unseasonably hot. But it is great to be in the final and we don't care what sort of conditions we have to face."

No change
He added: "The heat is an obvious concern. It's not something we can change, though. It's there, we can't do anything about it, but if you would have told me with ten minutes to go in Boavista about the weather conditions, it's something I would have taken. It's great to be here, absolutely terrific. I'm looking forward to it and so are the players and we will have to adapt accordingly."

Huge support
While he admitted that Porto might be better suited to the weather conditions, O'Neill pointed out that Celtic would have the greater support. Indeed, one per cent of global air traffic today will be carrying Celtic fans to the game. By last night, streets of the pretty Andalusian capital were already thronged with kilted supporters clad in varying shades of green.

Mass exodus
One journalist's estimate that there would be 40,000 Celtic fans in the city was given short shrift by O’Neill. "I think you got the wrong number, I think it is more like 140,000. The people of Seville will be surprised at the number of supporters. There are very few Celtic supporters left in Glasgow," he said. "I only wish that having more supporters would guarantee success. But it is terrific to see it and it is not something that we take for granted."

Blair boost
O'Neill also revealed an unlikely source of support, disclosing that he had received a fax from the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, offering his best wishes.

Know your history
With Celtic seeking their 100th European competition win, O'Neill, a former European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with Nottingham Forest FC, also spoke poignantly about the legacy of the Lisbon Lions, the Celtic team that in 1967 became the first British winners of the European Cup.

Spirit of success
"The important thing is that we embrace the club's history and not be frightened of it," he said. "We might be a million miles off that European Cup winning team but we've reached a final and we've done it with some terrific players who have a terrific spirit."