Graham Bayne feels Shane Sutherland has been rewarded for regaining his hunger at Elgin City by earning a return to Caley Thistle.
Sutherland signed a pre-contract with the Highlanders in January, and will make the switch to Caledonian Stadium ahead of next season.
Having started his senior career with hometown club Wick Academy, Sutherland joined Inverness’ youth setup as a 17-year-old in 2007.
Although he made 86 first team appearances, Sutherland was released in 2013 and has spent the last seven years in the lower leagues with Peterhead and Elgin, who he has scored 99 goals for across four spells.
Former Inverness striker Bayne feels the 29-year-old’s persistence has secured a return to full-time football.
Bayne said: “Shane was a young lad when I was at Caley Thistle. He was in the youth team and he was a major standout.
“I left as he was coming through the youth ranks, but people were already speaking about him.
“I know Caley Thistle’s coaching staff were watching him recently and said he looked like he had got his hunger back, as that was potentially why he was down there at the time. He had maybe lost his love of it.
“He seems to have got his mojo back and I’m delighted for him. He’s a fantastic lad and a supremely talented football player.”
Bayne also worked with Sutherland during a brief spell as Barry Wilson’s assistant manager at Elgin in 2014, and he felt it was quickly evident the forward should have been playing at a higher level.
Bayne added: “It was ridiculous how the lad was playing at that level.
“One game that sticks in the mind was after Barry left, when I stayed on to take the team for one more week to give them a chance to find somebody.
“It was down at East Fife and Elgin allowed me to find someone to get in the dugout to help me out.
“I brought in Steven Milne who I’d played with at Dundee, he just came to help me for that one game.
“After about 20 minutes he turned to me and asked: ‘how is this boy playing in this league?’
“That just sticks in my mind.”
Bayne dropped out of full-time football after leaving Dundee in 2001, with a productive stint at Arbroath earning him a move to Ross County 12 months later.
Bayne has credited Sutherland for getting back on the full-time radar after a far longer hiatus, adding: “Normally you would drop down, put yourself in the shop window and other managers can see what you can do.
“I was at Arbroath for a season in what was Division 1 at the time, but it’s the best decision I have made in my whole football career.
“Shane has done it that many years after leaving Inverness. Fair play to him, as there are not many that do it after that duration.”