London (AFP) – David Moyes insisted he is an “animal lover” as the West Ham manager defended his controversial decision to pick Kurt Zouma for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford despite the Frenchman’s cat-kicking shame.
Moyes selected Zouma just hours after police launched a probe into a sickening video showing the 27-year-old dropping, kicking and slapping his pet cat.
West Ham “unreservedly condemned” Zouma’s horrific behaviour and the former Chelsea defender issued an apology ahead of kick-off in the Premier League match at the London Stadium.
Moyes was criticised for not taking Zouma out of his team, but he was adamant he had to do what was right for his club.
West Ham’s victory lifted them above Manchester United into fourth place in the Premier League as they chase a lucrative spot in next season’s Champions League.
“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,” Moyes told reporters.
“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 had to do my job’ –
Zouma got a taste of the public backlash at his antic as he was relentlessly booed by Watford supporters, with even West Ham fans joining in some of the jeering.
Watford fans chanted “that’s how your cat feels” when he was fouled by Josh King.
Zouma is seen in the video dropping and kicking the cat, with laughter can be heard in the background, before he throws a pair of shoes at it.
Moyes has discussed the incident with Zouma, but he admitted he would let the club decide what disciplinary action should be taken.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
An online petition calling on Zouma to be “prosecuted for animal cruelty” had attracted 25,000 signatures by the time the match kicked off.
“We are all of the same feeling it was completely out of order from Kurt and we didn’t expect that,” Moyes said.
“Kurt is in our first XI so my decision was to play him.”
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