Moyes is Johnsonian in defence of cat-kickers and anti-vaxxers

Dave Tickner
West Ham manager David Moyes shouts from the touchline during a game against Tottenham

Not for the first time, David Moyes has put himself in the Johnsonian position of having ‘rank gormless stupidity’ as his most plausible defence. Because the alternative is far worse.

Just as with his cack-handed use of ‘diversity’ as a reason why football should respect anti-vax cranks, his decision to pick cat-kicking pariah Kurt Zouma against Watford is either very, very stupid or far more sinister.

Of course, Moyes could simply have attempted to be fully brazen about it; Zouma is undoubtedly within his strongest XI and that is all there is to it. It would be a despicable position to hold, but at least there would be some intellectual honesty. Moyes pretty much admitted this was the case with the “not my job, mate” energy of his post-match quotes: “My job is to try and win for West Ham and to put out the best team for that” and “My job is to pick the best team for West Ham and Kurt was part of that team”.

But he knows that position can’t hold. Hence you get the “some of my best friends are animals” nonsense about being a “big animal lover”.

As much as anything else, though, the bone-headedness of the decision lies in its utter short-sightedness. Moyes surely can’t think this all goes away without Zouma missing some football. We’re talking about cruelty to animals here; the only thing British people hate more than cruelty to animals is vegans.

So at some point Zouma will miss games. Why not, therefore, get ahead of that and leave him out here? This isn’t a situation of Moyes’ making, clearly, but he has needlessly fanned the flames and this attempt to have his cat and kick it has made things far, far worse.

Even if we allow him to be absolved of all moral decision-making in his job, Tuesday night’s decision falls short. If Zouma is so crucial to West Ham but must miss some games at some point, why not make Watford at home one of them? Even taking all sentiment and morality away, the cool, hard “win for West Ham” approach would surely conclude that Watford at home is a game he could afford to miss?

But really we shouldn’t be surprised Moyes got this so wrong. For all the goodwill his West Ham efforts have generated, he has shown his hand more than once.

Those vaccination comments were horrendous.

“We talk so much about diversity. If we want diversity, players should have a choice about whether to take the injection or not. We have to respect everyone.”

Even if we overlook the inherent stupidity at the heart of this view which requires us to accept that anti-vaxxers have the double whammy of exercising personal freedom over their body but also to override everyone else’s personal freedom over their own bodies, we’re still left with that use of ‘diversity’. Like we said: it’s either crass, uncontestable stupidity or a nasty, disingenuous attempt to co-opt something noble and admirable to defend twats.

If we want diversity, perhaps we also have to respect players’ choices about whether to kick their cats and film it.

Perhaps we also have to respect a manager’s right to threaten to slap a female journalist. What a boring place football would be if it contained only people who don’t threaten to slap female journalists for daring to ask awkward questions. We must respect everyone.

Of course, once again with Moyes, the animal lover who picks a cat-kicker and the man who thinks diversity extends to people who get their scientific opinions from Facebook, that respect doesn’t really cover ‘everyone’ so much as ‘everyone who makes West Ham a slightly better football team’.