West Ham United have been dealt a huge blow in their pursuit of Omar Richards after the Reading full-back sustained an injury at the worst possible moment for David Moyes.
According to Berkshire Live, the Royals have been hit by a triple injury setback with Richards and top-scorers Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite set for a spell on the sidelines over the festive period.
Reading maintained their push for Premier League promotion with a 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, but lost Richards when the 22-year-old was forced off with a hamstring injury just 27 minutes into his 18th appearance of the second-tier season.
News of Richards’ issue will be irksome at the London Stadium, where club chiefs are reportedly paying close attention to the £1.35m-rated left-back’s situation with Reading considering cashing in on their rising star, whose contract is due to expire in the summer.
Richards is in discussions over penning a new four-year deal, but if terms are not agreed by late January, it is said Reading will look to offload the rumoured West Ham and Crystal Palace target tracked by several Premier League sides including Wolves, Newcastle and Southampton.
Moyes will be particularly dismayed to hear of Richards’ injury as he weighs up a winter pursuit, having lost Arthur Masuaku for the foreseeable future after the DR Congo international underwent career-saving surgery on a knee injury.
An impressive showing from Richards over the festive period could have sealed the London-born left-back a move to West Ham in January, but he may now find his route back to the capital blocked through no fault of his own.
Richards has impressed in the Championship this season as an integral aspect of Veljko Paunovic’s promotion-chasing plans, having missed just four minutes of action over his first 17 appearances before limping off in game 18.
The 22-year-old is yet to score or assist but has created three big chances for the Royals to find the back of the net while averaging 0.6 key balls and 0.3 shots a match. He has also averaged 77.7 touches a game, plus 38 accurate passes and 0.8 accurate crosses, per SofaScore.
His defensive efforts of 2.7 successful tackles, 1.6 interceptions and 1.5 clearances a game have further helped to six clean sheets while winning a mammoth 7.4 duels shared between 6.6 on the ground and 0.8 in the air with 66% and 50% success rates respectively.
His career trajectory was certainly on the up before the injury, and a Premier League future is almost guaranteed for Richards, regardless of Reading’s promotion hopes, but it remains to be seen if West Ham will be the destination for the man former Royals boss Mark Bowen once lauded for being “outstanding”.