He scored the goal which denied Celtic the league title but Elgin City's Shane Sutherland has regrets about his first spell at Caley Thistle
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WHEN Elgin City striker Shane Sutherland returns to Caley Thistle next season, he feels he has some "unfinished business" to attend to.
Sutherland (29) last week signed a pre-contract with the Inverness club where his senior career began, and is expected to complete his move from Elgin at the end of the current season.
He was full-time with ICT as a teenager, playing top tier football and famously scoring a winning goal against Celtic which effectively handed Rangers their last Premiership title back in 2011.
But his time at the Caledonian Stadium fizzled out and he ended up being released from his contract. The player has regrets that he let a great opportunity slip away and plans to make up for lost time in his second spell at ICT.
"I can’t lie if someone asked me which team I would like to come calling for me, it would be Inverness - because I’ve got a little bit of unfinished business there," he said.
"I let myself down a little bit at the end of my time there. I wasn’t playing well enough when I was getting the chance."
Signed by Inverness as a 16-year-old, he was loaned out to current club Elgin in January, 2010 and made his senior debut for the Black and Whites in a 5-1 home defeat to Berwick almost exactly ten years ago.
He scored his first SPFL goal for City in a 4-0 win at Montrose and ended up with five goals in 17 appearances from his loan spell at Borough Briggs.
On returning to Inverness, he made his first team debut for Caley Jags for manager Terry Butcher as sub in a 1-0 home defeat against Celtic.
His first Caley start was also against the Hoops, though hardly a memorable one as they went down 6-0 at Celtic Park with Georgios Samaras netting a hat-trick.
Sutherland also played against Elgin that season as the clubs met in a Scottish Cup tie at the Caledonian Stadium in front of a 2808 crowd. He came on as sub with the score still 0-0, and Inverness netted twice in stoppage time to steal a fortunate victory.
Finally he got off the scoring mark for Inverness in March 2011, netting the opener in a 3-0 win against Motherwell.
Sutherland's greatest day arrived two months later when Inverness hosted league leaders Celtic and wrecked their title hopes with a 3-2 win which did Rangers' hopes the world of good as they went on to claim the championship.
A Charlie Mulgrew own goal put Inverness ahead before Kris Commons quickly levelled for the Celts.
Defender Grant Munro, who like Sutherland enjoyed a loan spell from Caley to Elgin earlier in his career, restored the home lead and Sutherland's moment of glory came when he swept a superb half volley past Fraser Forster and in off the base of the post to make it 3-1.
Commons pulled one back from the spot but Caley held on for a famous win.
The following season Sutherland netted the only goal in a 1-0 Premier League win against Hearts in January 2012, the third and final strike of his spell with Inverness.
His last game was as a sub in a 1-0 defeat at Ross County, before he was released that summer and joined Elgin on a permanent basis.
Since then, Sutherland's time at Borough Briggs has been punctuated by two spells at Peterhead, and his dream of returning to full-time football was fading fast.
"Full-time football is something that every player should aspire to do," he said. "If you take it for granted it bypasses you and maybe at the tail end of my first stint at Inverness it probably did that.
"I’m disappointed that it happened, but I won’t let this one bypass me. I will make sure I take every opportunity I can.
"I had a good chat with John Robertson, he said what he had to say and I liked what he had to say.
"I had my eyes wide open before I went into the conversation that it was full-time football. The only thing that was going to get me away from Elgin, at this stage of my career was going to be full-time football and luckily enough I’m getting the chance to do it again."
For all his regrets that his first stint at the Caledonian Stadium didn't last longer, Sutherland has fond memories.
"I think I was 20 when I scored that goal against Celtic. Great memories to look back on and hopefully there’s more to come.
"My wee boy Lewis will see that video many times, I can assure you and hopefully there’s more to come with Elgin and more to come with Inverness. But looking back you realise what great memories I’ve had.
"Maybe Terry Butcher played me out of position at times. Ever since I’ve left Inverness I’ve played striker nearly every game in my career and gone on to score over 100 goals since I’ve left there, so I’ve obviously done something right.
"I never really got a fair chance to play as a striker or even off the striker when I was first at Inverness. That’s football, and there have been occasions at Elgin when I’ve not played in my favoured position.
"I think I will go back there a more mature guy having played a lot of games and scored over 100 goals. I will just go there and try to prove, not to anyone else but just myself that I can do it at that level.
"But to do my best is to do my best with Elgin first, work hard and get as fit as I can, then go to Inverness in the summer and hit the ground running in pre-season."