West Ham boss David Moyes has offered an explanation after the selection of Kurt Zouma sparked outrage ahead of the 1-0 win over Watford.
Jarrod Bowen’s strike sealed a crucial win, but the only talking point was a video which emerged earlier on Tuesday, which showed Zouma abusing his pet cat.
The France international was filmed kicking and slapping his cat in footage posted on his brother’s Snapchat account.
Speaking after the game, Moyes insisted the video disappointed him, but that he took a decision with three points in mind.
He said: “I’m really disappointed, and the club have taken all the action they can do at the moment behind the scenes. My job is to pick the best team and Kurt was part of that.
“I’m a big animal lover and it’s something that will have affected a lot of people.
“I was completely disappointed with what I saw and what I was told, but my job was to try and find a way to get a win for West Ham. Some people will be disappointed and I understand that.
“I’m someone who cares a lot about my dogs and my horses. The club are dealing with it as you well know.
“I’ve already spoken to him and we’ll move on as much as we can. We understand it’s not something everybody is pleased about. It’s a really poor situation.
“Was it the wrong call? My feeling was Kurt’s apologised. I understand lots of people won’t just accept that. But I had to do my job then, and that was to pick the best team I could.
“He’s obviously really disappointed and we’ve all felt it through the team and through the club. We are all of the same feeling it was completely out of order from Kurt and we didn’t expect that.
“I always felt I had to try and separate them and let the club do their side and I’ll do my side which is the football side. I think you are talking to one of the most disciplinary managers there is.
“It’s something which we are all really disappointed with and the club are dealing with it. Kurt is in our first XI so my decision was to play him.”
Zouma has since apologised for the video, claiming his cats are loved despite the abuse.
“I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video,” Zouma said. “I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy.
“They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
West Ham have also commented on the actions of their player, saying: “West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated.
“We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”
The video has been called ‘unacceptable’ by the RSPCA and West Ham have confirmed any fines handed out to Zouma will be donated to the organisation.
A number of talkSPORT hosts also hit out at Zouma, with former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan calling the incident ‘brainless’.
“This is the most absurd, ridiculous, puerile, cruel behaviour,” he said.
“The fact that it’s been filmed and put out on social media, even in the deepest darkest recesses of a stupid brainless mind would you think that’s something that you’d want to do.”
Jordan joined Ally McCoist in calling for the defender to be dropped, while former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland told talkSPORT he wouldn’t want to play with Zouma again.
“I wouldn’t [want to play with him] if I was in that dressing room,” Kirkland said.
“If I was captain, I would get him out of that dressing room and wouldn’t want to play with him again. Definitely not.
“This is just about what’s right in humanity, even if you’re not an animal lover. Seeing that sickened me.”
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