BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Chris Richards is hoping to put his injury woes behind him as he looks to cement his place in the Crystal Palace defence in 2023.
The 22-year-old American, signed from Hoffenheim in July, ended a four-month absence when he came on in the 3-0 loss to Fulham on Boxing Day.
Richards made four appearances in August before a persistent injury to his leg left him on the sidelines since the 4-2 defeat at Manchester City in late August.
“It’s been my dream to play in the Premier League,” the former Bayern Munich player told the South London Press. “It started off pretty well and then it kind of came to a halt with the injury for such a long time.”
Richards has revealed he has been struggling with the issue pretty much all year. It also ruled him out of representing his country at the World Cup.
He is yet to make a league start for the South London club after substitute appearances against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City, plus a full EFL Cup game against Oxford in August.
Richards came off the bench in the 60th minute against Fulham to replace James Tomkins, who had been shown a red card. Tyrick Mitchell had already been given his marching orders by referee Andy Madley in the 34th minute.
In a performance which Palace boss Patrick Vieira admitted his side “didn’t do anything” to win, the Eagles faithful made themselves heard with their support right until the 95th minute.
That unwavering backing is something that inspired the former Dallas player during his time out.
“I just want to bring glory to this club,” he said. “That kept me going throughout the injury – knowing that whenever I get my chance that hopefully I can put together some good performances and help the club out in any way possible.
“As shitty as today [Boxing Day] was I just remember looking up at the clock in the 94th minute and still hearing them chant no matter what the score was. We definitely feel the energy from our fans.”
Next up for Palace is a trip to Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve.
“As much as we want to forget about today, we’re going to have to sit on it tomorrow and really deep dive and analyse what we did wrong,” he admitted.
“I feel like we didn’t do much right today. We just have to make sure we don’t do that against Bournemouth and start off the new year right.
“We had a good preparation leading up to this [Fulham] game and we felt good mentally and physically, but sometimes it’s just not your day. It was almost like we really just came out slowly. We were always one second behind whether it was second balls, going forward or even defending.
“It was a bit stressful watching from the sidelines. It was tough. Then getting into the game it felt the same way, especially with two men down.
“It was definitely a tough game. We could tell from our performance today that he [Patrick Vieira] wasn’t happy.”
The home side had nearly gone ahead in the 26th minute when Jordan Ayew smashed a shot off of the crossbar, but five minutes later Fulham went 1-0 up thanks to Bobby De Cordova-Reid and it quickly unravelled for Palace.
“An early goal like that can definitely change the game,” said Alabama-born Richards. “It was a bit unlucky, but it was pretty much how the cookie crumbled.
“I would say it was a questionable double yellow for Tomkins and that just kind of started the avalanche at that point.
“It was mixed emotions because I was happy to come back and make this comeback after such a long time away, but then, of course, the result wasn’t what we wanted.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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