Blast from the Past no.36: Karl Ready
Reviving the Premier League players you forgot existed…
Two-time Queens Park Rangers player of the season, more than 250 appearances for the Rs, a former club captain, a youth team product and familiar face at Loftus Road for more than a decade. On paper, Karl Ready has all the credentials to be a Super Hoops legend. He isn’t though. Lord knows he isn’t.
Despite being a Rangers regular throughout the 1990s, the centre-back appears to have left the club’s fans without a single fond memory of him. Outside of west London, he is even less cherished. To most football fans, the phrase “Karl Ready” is just a long-forgotten sound signifying nothing except hazy mediocrity. He’s just somebody that we used to know, and not very well.
And yet, this was a man who gave his all in the top flight season after season; a constant presence in the upper echelons of English football for 10 long years. Why does nobody remember? Why does nobody care?
To unravel this mystery, we have to take it all the way back to the beginning.
“I was there for his debut against Wimbledon. He was terrible that day - but it turned out to be one of his better performances,” were the ominous words of one Rs fan on the Loft for Words forum.
Rangers were riding high when Ready first broke into the team - achieving finishes of 5th, 9th and 8th in the first three Premier League seasons.
The young centre-back was a willing back-up, rather than a crucial cog, in Gerry Francis’ exciting side, happy to wait for his chance and then give 110 per cent when it came. It would have been better if he could have given about 310 per cent though.
“Ready couldn’t head a ball, had no pace and couldn’t read the game to save his life,” was one assessment. “Awful defender who, when he played, you always knew there was a mistake in him,” was another. “Head like a 50 pence piece, you never knew where the ball would end up,” was another.
And these were the good times. It was when Rangers sold the popular Darren Peacock to Newcastle in 1995 that things started to go pear-shaped. The club thought Ready was ready to fill in. But Ready wasn’t ready. He was, to use his nickname, un-Ready.
“He looked like a poor man’s Peacock, especially with that stupid barnet of his,” scoffed one fan of Ready’s classic early 90s blonde “curtains” look. “He looked like a Viking who’d had a makeover,” was how another supporter described it.
“When Peacock was sold and it was clear the club felt Ready was an adequate replacement, QPR went into a 20-year spiral of chaos we’ve yet to recover from. It’s pretty much all his fault,” summarised another R.
The 1995/96 season was a calamity for Rangers. After those three consecutive top-half finishes, the side now managed by Ray Wilkins found itself in a relegation battle. Ready became famous for his penchant for backing off attackers until they made into the box, then hacking them down and conceding a spot-kick.
“More than any other player, Karl Ready was the main person I blamed for our relegation in 1996. It seemed that we let in goals from his mistakes pretty much every week,” said one fan.
Following relegation, Rangers entered a bleak period of second-tier mid-table obscurity during which they never threatened to return to the top flight. “Karl Ready is a football genius”, sang the fans, but they were being sarcastic.
Nonetheless, he was soon appointed club captain. He was even voted player of the year a couple of times. Not that he gets much credit for it now.
“The fact he played as many games as he did shows what an absolute shower the club became,” said one fan. “Him winning player of the season was a new low,” agreed another.
In fact, the paltry levels of respect Ready commands despite so many years of service to one club are almost unprecedented. Some think this was, indirectly, Peacock’s fault.
“He had the misfortune to come in straight after a time of immense quality defenders at the club, like Alan McDonald, Paul Parker, Terry Fenwick and Darren Peacock. He also arrived at the point that the club was about to implode after years of comparative success. Not the worst defender that we have had by a long shot,” was one more sympathetic summary.
“Karl Ready seemed to have very little awareness or ability to anticipate what might happen next, but you couldn’t fault him for effort and he never hid, even when he was having a stinker,” was another.
There were some high points too, such as a screamer in a victory against Arsenal, an equaliser against Bristol City with the last kick of the game and one fan’s insistence that he “once marked Alan Shearer out of the game”.
“One of the worst centre-backs I’ve ever seen but weirdly scored loads of goals for us and we never lost when he scored, which considering how terrible we were for his time here is quite something,” said another fan.
Ready also displayed a certain panache off the pitch, once arriving at club’s Player of the Year awards wearing “a white safari suit, white shirt, white tie, shiny brown knee-length riding boots (outside the trousers), the blonde curtains haircut and clutching a white handbag he had designed himself”. He also drove a white Golf GTI. He liked white.
When Rangers’ decline reached its nadir with relegation to League One in 2001, Ready was released. He spent a season at Motherwell and another at Aldershot, although the most memorable event of his post-Rs career was when a strange news story surfaced about him having a fight in Barbados with a taxi driver who had accused him of “smooching” with a male fellow passenger.
And that’s about the end of the Karl Ready story. Nowadays he works in property, or something.
“For someone who made so many appearances for the club, it is surprising and a little sad how so few people have a good word to say about him,” concluded one Rs supporter.
Even Ready himself is somewhat baffled by it, commenting in 2006, “I don’t think QPR’s the easiest place to come and play - the fans can be quite tough on you. I know I wasn’t the greatest player, but I won Player of the Year twice, scored two goals in the first month of the season and by the end of that month they were booing me!”
Sometimes life just isn’t fair, especially when you spend 10 years of it playing for Queens Park Rangers.
Follow @darlingkevin on Twitter
Blast from the Past no.1: Hassan Kachloul
Blast from the Past no.2: Joe-Max Moore
Blast from the Past no.3: Titi Camara
Blast from the Past no.4: Regi Blinker
Blast from the Past no.5: Hamilton Ricard
Blast from the Past no.6: Shaun Bartlett
Blast from the Past no.7: Roque Junior
Blast from the Past no.8: Stefan Schwarz
Blast from the Past no.9: Andy Impey
Blast from the Past no.10: Magnus Hedman
Blast from the Past no.11: Danny Tiatto
Blast from the Past no.12: Dejan Stefanovic
Blast from the Past no.13: Darren Eadie
Blast from the Past no.14: Facundo Sava
Blast from the Past no.15: Alpay
Blast from the Past no.16: Jostein Flo
Blast from the Past no.17: Per Frandsen
Blast from the Past no.18: Geoff Horsfield
Blast from the Past no.19: Aki Riihilahti
Blast from the Past no.20: Temuri Ketsbaia
Blast from the Past no.21: Willem Korsten
Blast from the Past no.22: Nordin Wooter
Blast from the Past no.23: Samassi Abou
Blast from the Past no.24: Jason Lee
Blast from the Past no.25: David Lee
Blast from the Past no.26: Finidi George
Blast from the Past no.27: Paul Warhurst
Blast from the Past no.28: Henri Camara
Blast from the Past no.29: Francis Benali
Blast from the Past no.30: Daniel Amokachi
Blast from the Past no.31: Emerson
Blast from the Past no.32: Igor Biscan
Blast from the Past no.33: Bruno Ribeiro
Blast from the Past no.34: Kiki Musampa
Blast from the Past no.35: Horacio Carbonari