We’ve been incredibly lucky with West Ham captains over the past few years because they’ve sort of just fallen into place. We’ve had Mark Noble and Declan Rice in succession, both of whom needed little or no deliberation from the managers.
This time around was a little different. The departure of Rice this summer left a void that we haven’t seen in east London for probably over a decade. There wasn’t a clear and obvious choice for the club captain. David Moyes ummed and ahhed over the summer and has finally handed the honour to Kurt Zouma.
Oh, I’m sorry, did I just say Kurt Zouma? I meant…oh, no wait…I was right the first time. Before you roll your eyes and say ‘oh, she’s one of the haters’, hear me out.
As a general rule of life, I don’t hate anyone. But I’m still not fully comfortable with Zouma after the ‘catgate’ antics, therefore to make him captain of the club I love is kind of a biggie. Let’s not specifically make this about a cat, it’s more than that. It’s the mindset of anyone who thinks that doing what he did is OK that has to be questioned.
And the fact that he had very little consequences to deal with just seems bad. A captain is, by definition, a leader and in command. A role model, for sure. Zouma shouldn’t be a role model, at least not yet.
Time passing doesn’t change what he did, but it does give him more time to rebuild trust and to lead by example. There’s always the argument that footballers are also role models to kids and of course they are, whether they like it or not.
All this lesson teaches kids is that you can act disgracefully in your own home and as long as you can pay your way out of it, you can achieve whatever you want. That’s not how to improve grassroots football. Moving on from my own thoughts though, he seems to be a popular personality in the dressing room and with the majority of West Ham fans.
The team accepted his apology and were rounded up by Mark Nole to talk it all through. Maybe, if anything, that helped Zouma to become even more liked – to open up while he was vulnerable and be sincere to his colleagues.
The club recently posted a video on Instagram of players going into the training facilities, asking them which of their teammates they would like to take with them to a desert island. Kurt’s name came up the most. I can’t argue with that I guess, even if it is for his ‘banter’ qualities, they like him for him and it creates bonds.
David Moyes confirmed his permanent appointment before we played Man City last month. He said: ‘We have a strong group of leaders at the Club. We have Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Łukasz Fabiański, Michail Antonio and now James Ward-Prowse has come in and they’re all senior players who know what’s required and how we do things. They’ve all stepped up and will be a massive help to Kurt, as will Mark Noble who is around the place as well.’
Upon seeing those names, I ask myself if there was a better choice than Zouma. Out of those names, I guess probably not. Cresswell would have been my first choice but lack of playing time, injury and talks of a move away put that one out of the window.
Ogbonna is also too injury prone and isn’t getting minutes on the pitch, Fabianski isn’t the first choice in the league any more, Antonio isn’t a leader in my eyes and Ward-Prowse is too new to the club. In fairness, Moyes wasn’t left with a plethora of names to choose from as it turns out.
I do think Kurt is capable of leading the team on the pitch. He started off with three wins and a draw to his name. The two following defeats to Liverpool and City were probably a foregone conclusion anyway.
He’s amassed a goal, an 83% tackle success rate, 42 clearances and one yellow card. All while maintaining composure within the team and celebrating successes. I’ll admit, he’s doing the job of a captain.
Maybe it’s what he needs. Maybe the responsibility and the trust handed to him will allow football fans and the press alike to start talking about his footballing abilities again, because we know his on-the-pitch displays are why we love him as a player.
Having captained the France U-21 side he’s had leadership qualities in him for years. There was a buzz around him becoming a future captain of Chelsea when he was playing there too. I’ve talked myself around a little through the process of writing this. But we need to be aware that this is a big call and the press will hound him if he puts a finger wrong.
As fans, we like to complain that the British press ‘has it in’ for West Ham, but on this occasion if he does have any slip ups on or off the pitch we’re going to have to take the negative press that comes with it.
Zouma may not have been my first choice but I want him to succeed. Next season I want to write a piece about his achievements and trophy wins, so don’t let me down Kurt!