It was a day of mixed news for us West Ham fans on May 24. First the bad news that Kurt Zouma had finally appeared in court to answer the charge of cruelty to animals.
The good news, however, was that our very own Jarrod Bowen had been called up to the England squad and no doubt will soon win his first England cap.
Let’s start with the negative story. This one has been talked about again and again after the club’s original poor handling of the whole situation. Zouma has now pleaded guilty to two counts under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court.
Further details were presented by the prosecution which included not only the video footage but also that allegedly after volleying the cat across the room he could be heard saying: ‘I swear I’ll kill it, I swear I’ll kill it.’
Doesn’t look good
It does not look good for Zouma. The prosecution also stated that since the video appeared on social media, there had been a spate of further videos where sick people have emulated Zouma, who is seen as a role model for many. There were even sections of our own supporter groups who glorified Zouma actions, in what I see as a sick, football song.
Zouma will be sentenced on 1st June, after I have written this article, it is though interesting to note just what he could or will have received. Tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty came into force in June 2021. This raised the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years. The new maximum penalty has enabled courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens.
As well as a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine. The more stringent sentences are the toughest in Europe. The Act ensures courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.
Zouma may be lucky as he has pleaded guilty and issued several apologies and had already lost a quarter of a million in wages. One thing is pretty certain, he may not be able to own any pet again, which is a good thing.
Some may say that this whole incident has been overblown but to me, animal cruelty is abhorrent and Zouma who has already pleaded guilty, should pay for the cruelty he enacted on an innocent animal.
Now let’s look at the good, and Jarrod Bowen’s much deserved call up to the England squad. I have a special interest in Jarrod’s West Ham career as he is a ‘local boy’. Jarrod was born in Leominster, just 18 miles from my home town of Ledbury. There is not a great deal of famous people that come out of rural Herefordshire; Ellie Goulding, three of the Pretenders and that’s about it, so Jarrod stands with just a few.
Jarrod has also had to fight to get to where he is now. There was no Premier League academy at an early age for this Herefordian.
Jarrod had trials for Cardiff City and Aston Villa, both clubs did not offer him a contract, and he ended up with his local team Hereford United. He scored his first career goal in Hereford’s win over Alfreton Town, not exactly one of the big boys.
If earlier rejection by the larger teams wasn’t enough after just eight first team appearances, the financial problems at Hereford United resulted in the team being expelled from the Football Conference.
Fortunately for Jarrod, Hull City had seen something in the youngster and picked him up. It did take almost three years for him to finally cement his place in the Hull side. Once established though he scored 52 goals in just 124 appearances, not bad for a midfielder. Most of those goals were in the Championship where Jarrod was Hull’s top scorer three seasons in a row.
Then along came West Ham with an £18 million transfer fee, which seemed a lot for a Championship player, particularly after the earlier transfer dealing for a seemingly similar player in Jordan Hugill, who proved to be a real bust at £10 million.
Jarrod’s career started slowly and he seemed to be the player that was always the first to be substituted. In hindsight, David Moyes was being cautious but Bowen simply forced his hand. Suddenly he became undroppable, an absolute key player in our last two seasons and particularly in our European campaign.
Even at 25, he is still learning. Sometimes he is too honest, probably the lower league influence in his career. When others fall over with ease, Jarrod will try and stay on his feet thus not cheating opponents or the referee. It is a sad reflection in our game that Jarrod needs to add this to his own game.
The England call up is much deserved though. It may have come earlier if it was not for injury, but it is richly deserved. He will shine as his clear love of the game is evident and he will no doubt be immensely proud of where he has come from. It also shows how Bowen is viewed that almost every football commentator has supported the call up, a true reflection on just how highly rated he is now seen by others.
And so two very different stories that emerged on the same day, one a very depressing one and one showing just what is good in our football game. One of a player who has had it all throughout his career and one who has had to fight to get to the top. I know whose camp I’m in, do you?