Graeme Souness says he has “zero sympathy” for Kurt Zouma with West Ham originally selecting the player – who then withdrew with illness – for the game at Leicester despite being filmed kicking his cat.
Hammers manager David Moyes
Hammers manager David Moyes had declared the centre-back was available to play despite a disturbing video of him kicking his cat across his kitchen floor.
The France international was initially selected in West Ham’s starting line-up, but the club confirmed he was withdrawn after feeling unwell and was replaced by Issa Diop.
Zouma’s cats have been taken away by the RSPCA after a video emerged of him hitting, dropping, and kicking his pet across his kitchen floor on Monday.
The 27-year-old West Ham defender issued an apology and has been fined two weeks’ wages – understood to be £250,000 – which will be donated to animal welfare charities, while Adidas have dropped the player as a client.
Moyes caused controversy by picking Zouma to face Watford on Tuesday, barely 24 hours after the footage was released and amid a huge public outcry.
National League club Dagenham have suspended Zouma’s brother Yoan, who is understood to have filmed the video, while the RSPCA investigates the incident.
Should Zouma have been selected in the first place?
Reacting to the news of Zouma’s withdrawal, Sky Sports Jamie Carragher said: “It’s makes folly of the decision to actually play him in the game and all the furore around it and then he’s not able to play in this game now anyway.
“Diop comes back in and in some way it kind of prolongs the story. Everyone in the stadium will be talking about Kurt Zouma again. It’s happened with other players, but you don’t really know quite what he’s been through in terms of the scrutiny.”
Graeme Souness responded: “Not as much as the cat went through. I have zero sympathy for him. If he turned up today, he could’ve got abuse from his own supporters. West Ham’s roots are in the East End of London, they’re salt of the earth people. The vast majority of them wouldn’t be accepting of what they saw on TikTok or whatever it was.
“I’ve got zero sympathy for him. I’ve got major problems with this. For me, looking at that video the cat hadn’t done anything wrong. It was picked up and it was abused for entertainment.
“It wasn’t out of anger… they were laughing. The example he sets there, and he smashes the cat out of the child’s arms. And then, and this is the biggest problem I have with it, they decide to put it on social media.
“The fact they then put it out on social media then suggests that they don’t see anything wrong with it and their behaviour. They thought that people would find this funny and amusing. It’s just wrong on every level what they did.”
Should we be concerned about Zouma’s welfare?
Moyes said during his press conference ahead of the trip to the Midlands: “We all make mistakes in life. The boy is incredibly remorseful. He’s incredibly upset at what he did – he did a terrible thing.
“But if it’s the case that there’s no forgiveness, then… We’ve all made mistakes and we’ll all continue to make mistakes in life.
“We have to give people opportunities. He said he got it wrong, made a big mistake, so I’m hoping people will see it in a different way and see it with forgiveness.”
Sky Sports presenter David Jones posed the question of whether we should be concerned about Zouma’s welfare after the latest development in the saga, but Carragher said: “Everything Graeme said there is right. He made a massive mistake.
“The question back for Graeme is that he’s been a manager, he’s been in David Moyes’ position… maybe not something like this. But you’ve had players who have done things that are completely out of order. How do you deal with it?”
Souness responded: “You said they’ve prolonged it… I think they’ve mismanaged it from day one. For me, I wouldn’t have played him again this year. I think, if I was still a player, I wouldn’t want to be in the dressing room with him.
“I wouldn’t want him around the place until he showed real remorse in whatever way that shows itself. The statements mean nothing, fines mean nothing in this instance.”
RSCPA: No courses or donations
The RSPCA has refuted claims it will conduct an animal welfare course for Zouma, and denied reports the charity have been given a donation as a result of a player fine.
An RSPCA statement read: “Our focus remains entirely on our experienced officers carrying out a full and thorough investigation. There have been no plans made for animal welfare courses to be undertaken. The RSPCA has not been offered or accepted a donation.”
In France, animal rights group the 30 Million Friends Foundation condemned the “heinous act” and called for Zouma to be suspended from the national team. West Ham are continuing to support an RSPCA investigation.
Moyes apologises to West Ham fans
Moyes offered an apology to the club’s fanbase for Zouma’s action and hopes the incident will not detract from the great strides West Ham have made, on and off the field, over the past couple of years.
“We’re really sorry if we’ve upset the West Ham supporters,” he said. “We’re completely upset by it as well. We’re really disappointed. I’m someone who is a great lover of animals and have them myself.
“If we’re talking about West Ham supporters being disappointed, well there’s nobody more disappointed than me, and the club as well.”
He added: “I’ve never had [an incident] like this. As a football manager it shows you never know what you’re going to get.
“I hope I’ll never get an incident like this again, but that’s part of being in this job. We’d rather we weren’t making news.
“West Ham have made really, really good news in the last two years.
“We’ve a really good side. I’m sad the focus has been taken away from what is, at the moment, a relatively good season.
“We mustn’t forget all of the good work that the club does because of one incident, and that’s why we’re asking the people out there for a bit of forgiveness. We know there’s been a mistake made and we hope that people will look at it in a different light.”
Moyes has not been afraid to drop players for disciplinary reasons, having previously left Michail Antonio out for being late for team meetings.
But he said: “He’s (Zouma) treated the exact same way as any other player.”