Chekiyot Kizhakkeveettill Vineeth was like a breath of fresh air for Kerala Blasters in the 2016 season of the Indian Super League (ISL). The Kannur-born forward came into the team midway through the season after AFC Cup commitments with Bengaluru FC, who were plying their trade in the I-League then.
He starred with five very important goals as Kerala Blasters reached the final, handing him a cult-hero status among fans. His stock was rising and his performances for Bengaluru FC in the subsequent I-League season was also exemplary, at least in the initial games which included a hat-trick against rivals Mumbai FC.
He went on to score the winner in the 2017 Federation Cup final against Mohun Bagan and was recalled by Stephen Constantine into the national team fold.
But before the ongoing season of the ISL, Bengaluru FC, who came into the ISL, opted to retain Sunil Chhetri & Udanta Singh and CK Vineeth went on to sign for Kerala Blasters in a mega-money deal.
Understandably, the fans of the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned outfit were elated to have the local hero back in their jersey. But as the league stage of the tournament winds down and Kerala Blasters prepare to face Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava stadium, the Blues would not be regretting their decision not to retain CK Vineeth.
The 29-year-old has not had the best of seasons this time around though he has contributed four goals to the cause. If his presence in the team last year was nothing short of talismanic, this year it has been far from it.
Yes, there was an injury-time equaliser against Chennaiyin FC and a screamer from distance late on against FC Pune City which gave Kerala all three points. Barring that, his form and composure in front of the goal has been very poor.
He was guilty of missing several sitters from rebounds where he could not sort his feet out in time or just could not connect with the ball in tight situations.
His strengths are his pace and a fighting mentality that sees him pop up in important positions. Vineeth has never been a technically adept player and it has shown this season where his performances have been inconsistent.
The number of times he has failed to find a teammate's run while the team was attacking has been glaringly evident. It could be one of the reasons why Albert Roca, a coach who prefers technically good players in his team, did not insist on the team retaining Vineeth.
Markedly, Vineeth has zero assists so far and has created zero big chances in the season - damning statistics for somebody who is considered a talisman by the fans. He has been dispossessed quite often during games as well - almost 2.2 times per game which does not really make for good reading.
But the former Prayag United player has a chance to show the Blues his worth on Thursday. He was injured when the Blues handed a 3-1 defeat to the Blasters in the reverse fixture. On Thursday, Vineeth would be hoping to break free of the inconsistencies that have plagued him this season and help his team get a measure of revenge.