Former Hearts striker Graham Weir has backed Craig Levein to defy the odds and mastermind another victory over Celtic – just like he did 14 years ago.
Levein was in his first stint in the dugout when a stunning late Austin McCann strike in April 2003 secured a 2-1 win that effectively cost the Hoops the top-flight title.
Weir played that day and recalls how the victory was all the more impressive given that he was up against the likes of legendary striker Henrik Larsson, John Hartson and Stiliyan Petrov in a season that saw Celtic reach the UEFA Cup final.
Hearts, who have failed to beat the Parkhead side in 20 outings – losing 18, will attempt to end the reigning champions’ unbeaten domestic record at the 70th attempt on Sunday and Weir insists he would not be surprised if Levein, who returned to the dugout in August, oversees another upset.
Weir said: “Craig gives you the belief that you can upset the odds but I think the belief was already in the players at that time as well.
“We were playing really well although the goal Ozzy scored that day, that’s the game I remember most.
“Celtic were really strong at that time, they had the likes of Hartson and Larsson up front, they were really strong and they’re obviously strong under Brendan Rodgers just now.
“That was the season they reached the UEFA Cup final so it showed you how strong they were.
“To be fair we had a really strong team at that point as well, it came from Elvis (Steven Pressley) at the back, Andy Webster and Craig Gordon was in goal, it was international players.
“The way Craig set out the team, we knew how to play and we had experience all over the pitch.
“The current side might not be the strongest team that Hearts have had for a while but Craig’s an experienced manager, an ex-international manager – he did well for Hearts in the past and I’m sure it will come good for him again. He is a fantastic manager.”
Victory for Hearts in 2003 ended a run of 12 straight losses to Celtic but Weir, who famously scored two injury-time goals in a dramatic 4-4 Edinburgh derby clash with Hibs, insists they enjoyed several close tussles with Celtic back then.
He added: “I’ve had some memorable games and some of the European ones were brilliant but that was one of the most memorable games against Celtic.
“I remember being up against them in other games as well and we threw it away. We should have won a few more games against them.
“There was also the Boxing Day game when we got beat 4-2 at Celtic Park but we actually took the lead in that game, big Mark De Vries scored two.
“That was unbelievable that game because we played so well and you’re walking away from it, thinking ‘how the hell did we get beat?’”