FAIRYTALES do come true.
Last season, Omar Richards was grateful to have established himself as a first team regular at Reading.
Now, he's the talk of the football world since securing a sensational move to Bayern Munich.
The 23-year-old left-back will link up with the Bundesliga champions this summer, after signing a pre-contract agreement on a four-year deal.
It's the pinnacle, so far, of a remarkable journey for Richards, who has been capped once at England U21 level.
And it's a path he's managed to negotiate thanks to his mum, who made sure he followed his dreams.
Richards was raised in Lewisham, South London by his single parent mother, along with two brothers.
He rarely saw his dad, in what were difficult circumstances. But football was his passion.
The youngster played Sunday League football, before training with Fulham and then Reading.
And it was his mother who made sure he never missed an opportunity to play the game.
"Growing up, my mum made a lot of things happen for me,” he said.
“With football, she’d be taking me up and down to training and to matches all over the country. I’m very fortunate for that.
“I grew up with my mum, single parent, I didn’t see too much of my dad. I’m fortunate for her making a lot of things work for me.
“I owe a lot of it to my mum.
“If it wasn’t for her taking me to all these training sessions from such a young age, I’m not sure I would have been so driven and stayed on with football, so a lot of it is down to her.
“Even now, she comes to the games when she can.”
HEARTBREAK AT FULHAM
Richards, who started out as a left-winger, established himself in the Royals first team in 2019.
The same year he was called up to England’s U21 squad and made his debut against Slovenia in a 2-2 draw.
But before he became a pro, he played Sunday League football for his local side.
It was there that clubs started to take note of his ability.
"I’m not really sure how I got into football originally, but I started to play Sunday league with my local team," he said.
“I didn’t really know if I was any good at it, but I just played for fun then they signed me up down there.
“I played there for a couple of years but then that team ended up folding, so I moved on to another local team where I went on to get scouted for Charlton, Chelsea and Fulham."
After a successful trial with the Cottagers, he joined the West London side at 10.
However, he was left heartbroken six years later.
“I remember getting released by Fulham at 16, and I didn’t know where football was going for me at that time.”
REDEMPTION AT READING
Luckily for Richards, the late Eamonn Dolan, Reading’s former academy manager, saw his potential and invited him to earn a scholarship.
“When I came over to Reading and got signed, that was a big moment in my career – just to keep going and keep sticking with my dream,” Richards said.
"Eamonn put belief in me, after getting released I lost quite a bit of confidence and he was able to restore that, and he helped me get where I am today."
And it was an enforced switch ahead of a youth game by academy coach David Dodds that Richards discovered his skills would be best set as an attacking left-back.
"Before I was more of an attacking player, I used to be a number 10 or a winger – I liked the way David Silva used to play, I always looked at that," Richards said.
“I was a first-year scholar and the scholars didn’t have a left-back, David Dodds put me there for one game and it kind of worked – so I’ve been there ever since!"
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