Social media can be a good tool to boost a football player's career. But there is a dark side to it as well.
It can be a source of hellish annoyance when things aren't rosy. And that is what CK Vineeth has had to experience in his Kerala Blasters career so far.
The Kerala-born striker has a love-hate relationship with the supporters. At the end of the day, it is all down to his performances on the field.
His signing was a no-nonsense decision by the Blasters management. It was done in a bid to not only increase the number of local players but also fill the squad with quality Indian contingent. And the Kannur-based striker checked both boxes.
The forward joined Blasters on loan from then I-League club Bengaluru FC for the second season of Indian Super League. In his debut season, he fired blanks and failed to make much of an impact as Blasters tumbled down to the bottom of the table.
His second run out in the league was influential. With five goals in nine matches, Vineeth was not only the club's top scorer of the season but was also third in the list of league's highest scorers behind Marcelinho and Iain Hume.
The forward, who is known for his work rate both up front and in wide areas of the pitch, helped the team reach the final of the tournament in 2016. A heart-wrenching defeat to ATK on penalties meant that Vineeth failed to get the credit that he deserved for his efforts. Since the club had suffered the same fate in the first season, the talk of the town was all about the team's second final exit to ATK.
CK Vineeth's biggest strength is his movement and his ability to score goals under pressure. He can also score absolute worldies, like the added time winner against Pune City last season.
However, he is not a multi-purpose striker that modern football demands. His vision, close control and passing range are limited and his tendency to go missing in games is a major cause for frustration amongst the supporters.
This frustration had led to abuse and mockery on social media against the player last season. While criticism is understandable, supporters virtually attacking the player for failing to meet their expectations only further harms his confidence levels. The former Bengaluru FC forward went through this last season and was reportedly on the verge of quitting the club before deciding to stay.
Under David James, Vineeth has a role to play. While the addition of Matej Poplatnik and Slavisa Stojanovic could be an indication of a reduced first-team role for the 31-year-old this season, David James values hunger and desire on the field.
"They are expected to win a game of football and there is an expectation from our fans on how we go about these games of football and play that kind of a game where even if we struggle, we win. The first step towards fulfilling that is having the desire and passion to play," the English coach said when asked about the team's style of football.
This season could see Vineeth being used to make an impact from the bench. Even if that is the case, last season was an example of how the striker chases games well. He scored four goals and two of them were 90th-minute match-winners.
If the player can find a way to ignore the negativities around him and focus on the task at hand, Kerala Blasters will reap the benefits. It is impossible to control social media outbursts due to the sheer volume of fans for the club. So it comes down to the player - can CK Vineeth prove his doubters wrong this season?