GEORGE Johnston believes he is now getting to grips with the physicality of League One football.

The former Liverpool and Feyenoord defender admits he took time to adjust to the hustle and bustle of the game at this level, particularly as all his football to that point had been played behind closed doors in the pandemic.

But Johnston, who took Bolton’s young player of the year trophy in last week’s awards, feels he has steadily grown more accustomed to the demands with the help of the Whites’ coaching staff.

“This is the first season that I’ve played with fans in stadiums because at Feyenoord that was behind closed doors, so that’s a massive thing for me,” he said.

“The physicality of the league earlier on in the season I was struggling to get to grips with it, but the more the season has gone on, the more guidance I’ve got from the staff and I think I’ve dealt with that much better in recent times, but it’s just something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning each week.”

Johnston could soon have some company on the left side of Wanderers’ defence with the potential arrival of Jack Iredale. It is understood the Cambridge United defender is close to agreeing terms, turning down interest from the Championship and League One Ipswich Town.

Asked if he will be keeping an eye on the rumour mill, Johnston admitted: “Probably not, no! I’m just focussed on myself really and working hard in the off-season to come into pre-season as strong as possible.”

Pre-season will begin in just under six weeks and though it is a time of year that some players dread, Johnston hopes Wanderers will be able to pick up where they left off in League One.

“It’s a lot of running but considering how we have finished this season off we’re all just excited for the start of next season, so we’ll be working hard to make sure we come back in the best possible way,” he said.

Joined by the likes of Derby County, Peterborough United and Barnsley from the Championship, plus an improving Ipswich Town, Wanderers have already been installed as one of the favourites for promotion next time around among clubs already signed up for League One.

“We have proved this season that we compete with those top teams, home and away, and even when we’re not at our best as well,” Johnston said, looking ahead to a promotion tilt next term. “Even with the injuries that we’ve had, we’ve still competed with the top teams, so it is exciting going into next season.”