WIGAN Athletic chief executive Mal Brannigan has confirmed that his club tried to sign defender George Johnston before he opted to join Wanderers.

Johnston helped the Latics avoid relegation in League One last season, making 22 appearances and scoring one goal in a loan move from Dutch giants Feyenoord.

The former Liverpool Under-23s defender became a free agent in the summer, with Wigan one of a handful of League One clubs who tried to bring him back to the UK on a permanent basis.

Wanderers won the race, snapping him up on a three-year deal last week.

Brannigan – whose club also lost out on the signing of Lee Evans to Ipswich Town – explained to Wigan Today: “Our offers were at the level we were happy with.

“Beyond that, if the offers are higher elsewhere, then so be it.

“Sometimes players move because they want to seek a different challenge, at a different point in their career.

“In terms of those two players (Evans and Johnston), and maybe others, that can happen.

“But there is a reason for that, and sometimes that reason is not always within our control.”

Wanderers have made a solid start to their recruitment this summer, bringing in three players on permanent deals so far.

Ian Evatt has also said he is “confident” that an arrangement will soon be reached with left-back Declan John, although at time of writing there is no official announcement due.

The Bolton boss has stated repeatedly that the club will not compromise its plan to remain financially stable but he feels there are other attractive factors which convince targets to pick the UniBol over rivals in the division.

“We are not going to be the biggest spenders in League One and I don’t want us to be,” he said.

“Some clubs will offer more money for the players we are targeting but this football club, the fanbase, the stadium, the training ground, the way we play, that all has a value as well.

“It may not be a financial value – but there is a value to it – and players need to understand that.

“If I was one of those players and someone were to offer me £400-500 more, I’d still want to come to this club for all those reasons.”