West Ham manager David Moyes has drawn widespread criticism for continuing to select centre-back Kurt Zouma in the wake of leaked footage showing him abusing his pet cats
Paul Merson has jumped to West Ham’s defence following the club’s controversial call to continue selecting Kurt Zouma after footage emerged of him attacking his two cats.
The French centre-back has been widely condemned this week after a video displaying him hitting and kicking his pets was leaked.
West Ham manager David Moyes has subsequently drawn criticism after selecting Zouma in the Hammers’ 1-0 Premier League win over Watford at the London Stadium on Tuesday night.
The player has since been slapped with a £250,000 fine by the club and has seen Adidas pull the plug on their sponsorship deal following the incident.
Vitality, one of West Ham’s partners, have also suspended their deal with the club as the unsavoury episode has dominated the headlines this week.
With the Irons in the hunt Champions League qualification, Moyes selected Zouma on Tuesday night, a decision which has drawn widespread backlash.
However, former Arsenal midfielder Merson believes the Scot was right to field the defender, given the lack of punishment from the Premier League and due to the Hammers’ hopes of European football next season.
“West Ham did the right thing playing Kurt Zouma even though that video of him made me feel sick,” Merson wrote in his column for the Daily Star.
“The Premier League haven’t banned him. Why should West Ham? Why should they make the rules?
“I don’t think West Ham had any choice. They have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get in the Champions League and he’s their best defender.
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“You can’t punish the club for one man’s stupidity, and if you’re David Moyes, you have to play him and wait for him to face the consequences.
“If you’re the club, and you’re paying him a fortune, and you need him, and the police have taken no action against him – you need to play him!
“West Ham condemned him. They’ve fined him. They’ve donated the money to animal welfare charities. And he’s apologised.”
While Merson was adamant West Ham were entitled to continue playing Zouma, the pundit strongly condemned the 27-year-old over his actions.
“None of that condones what he did because it was an absolute disgrace,” he added.
“It was shocking and stupid and sickening and I worry some little kids watching him kick that cat might try to copy him. You have to make it clear to the kids that is not acceptable or normal behaviour in any shape or form.”
Despite calls for Zouma to be further punished by the club, Moyes reaffirmed his stance that the defender will continue to be selected and suggested the under-fire player could feature again at the King Power on Sunday afternoon.
“Yes, he is available against Leicester and I stand by the decision to play him,” the Scot said on Friday.
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“It’s different views on should he be available or not. We as a club took the decision that we made him available, and I stand by that.
“I don’t think the club could take more action or any quicker. West Ham have fined him the maximum wages, we all accept the actions terrible and diabolical.
“We are so disappointed. It is completely out of character from Kurt, he is a really good lad. We are going to try to give him as much help as we can.”
Moyes also confirmed Zouma will be sent on an instructional course with animal safeguarding charity the RSPCA so he can learn from the experience.