Congratulations are in order for Omar Richards, who you’ve voted as your November player of the month. It’s a fitting reward for a reliable, ever-present defender not only over the course of the last month, but also over the 2020/21 season as a whole.
It’s the first time someone not named Lucas Joao has taken the award this season. Reading’s top scorer edged out the competition in September and October, but finished a respectable third this time round. Richards comfortably came top with 41%, followed by Michael Olise on 29%, Joao on 23% and Tom Holmes on 7%.
That’s no mean feat for Richards given that Olise and Joao caught the eye with notable individual contributions in November. The former came up with beautiful assists against Millwall and Bristol City - one for Joao, the other for Yakou Meite, while the latter continued his goal scoring form by netting against Bournemouth, Millwall and Bristol City.
But Richards’ defensive solidity, confident performances and class on the ball have really endeared himself to the fans recently. In recent years he’s had difficulty coming out of his shell somewhat and performing consistently, but this year he’s really taken to regular first-team football well. Huge credit is in order for both him and Veljko Paunovic for his development.
That development has essentially required him to do two jobs in one. Although Reading started the season with a relatively cautious approach to games, allowing the full backs to stay deep and concentrate on defending, Pauno has increasingly wanted a greater attacking contribution from Richards and, on the other flank, Holmes and Tomas Esteves.
Pulling that off has naturally required Richards to be both a good defender and attacker, but it also requires a broader level of maturity and intelligence to combine those traits into the complete package. Richards is still only 22 but, on the basis of what we’ve seen so far this season, he’s got the lot. You’ll rarely catch him making a mistake at the back; it’s clear that he’s learned so much in the last few years since making his debut under Jaap Stam in 2017.
He is one of only two outfield players to have appeared in every minute of every Championship game so far - alongside Michael Morrison - emphasising how dependable he has become and what a key part of the team he is.
The Tilehurst End Player of the Month winners 2020/21
September - Lucas Joao (67%)
October - Lucas Joao (41%)
November - Omar Richards (41%)