What is Helicopter Sunday?
What is Helicopter Sunday, and why the name? If you don’t follow Scottish football, you’re maybe unaware of the dramatic events that unfolded on that Sunday in 2005
The Legend of Helicopter Sunday
It was the 22nd May. Rangers were pitted against Hibernian at Easter Road in Edinburgh, they were second in the Scottish Premier League, two points behind their bitter rivals Celtic.
Meanwhile at Fir Park some 36 miles away, Celtic simply had to defeat their opponents Motherwell, or just match Rangers’ result, to win the league.
It seemed certain for the Hoops’ fans that their team would be the ones holding the Premiership trophy at the end of the day – and that trophy would be flown to the Fir Park ground via helicopter (but more on that later…).
As you can see a helicopter flight between Edinburgh and Motherwell is quite quick.
Rangers appeared to have lost their mojo in the first half of the game. Striker Nacho Novo’s first attempt at a goal hit the post in the first 11 minutes, and to make matters worse, news filtered through from Fir Park that Celtic’s Chris Sutton had given his team the one-nil lead against Motherwell.
Cue an impassioned speech from Rangers manager Alex McLeish at half-time in the dressing room. He told his team that they ‘would wake up in the middle of the night with cold sweats’ if they failed to secure a win against Hibs.
To get his players hoping again, McLeish pointed out that if they scored and Motherwell equalised, Rangers would walk away as the champions.
It seemed to work, because in the second half Novo redeemed himself by giving Rangers their first (and only) goal for the day.
Celtic Win Inevitable?
The match then slowed to a crawl as Hibs simply kept defending their side of the pitch – happy with the 1-0 score as losing by a narrow margin would see them through to the Uefa Cup.
Rangers were equally unwilling to rock the boat – so now all they could do was hope Motherwell would pull through in their favour.
But that equalisation didn’t look like it would be coming. The score was still 1-0 to Celtic as the match crept closer to the final whistle.
With just two minutes left, and the helicopter already on its way to Fir Park, Mothewell’s Scott McDonald suddenly broke through and surprised everyone with two cracking goals just sixty seconds apart.
“The helicopter is changing direction!” screamed commentator Peter Martin as the trophy made a sharp and unexpected turn back towards Edinburgh. You can hear the radio commentary below…
Rangers Emerge the Victors
The Celtic players and supporters were inconsolable. The Rangers fans went nuts.
The stands erupted in celebration as they learned of McDonald’s first goal, then again when the second goal arrived, and finally as the whistle blew at Easter Road the scene devolved into chaos. Fans swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate the victory with their team.
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- Helicopter Sunday: Rangers’ last-gasp triumph, 10 years on
- Scott McDonald broke Celtic’s heart ten years ago on Helicopter Sunday.. he can do the same to Rangers