Watson opts for Wigan

Wigan manager Steve Bruce filled the vacancy left by Wilson Palacios by signing England U-21 midfielder Ben Watson from Championship side Crystal Palace on Monday.

Palacios moved last week to Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur in a move reported to be worth £14 million.

Bruce has now spent some two million pounds of that fee on signing the 23-year-old Watson, who was headed for a move to another Premier League side in Middlesbrough, until Wigan stepped in with a three-and-a-half year deal.

Watson could now make his debut for seventh-placed Wigan in Wednesday's match against Premier League title contenders Liverpool.

"We have been watching Ben for some time, and believe he has the maturity to step back to the highest level and make an impression," said Bruce.

"He's a midfielder who scores goals, has quick feet, plenty of power and is a terrific prospect," the former Manchester United defender added. "I wanted to move quickly to start filling the gap left by Wilson Palacios, and Ben is the start of that process."

Bruce said he was especially pleased to have signed a player wanted by one of Wigan's top-flight rivals.

"It speaks volumes about the progress of the club that we can compete with established Premier League clubs for players," he said. "I am delighted Ben has agreed to join us. I think our supporters will take to him quickly, because he's a real hundred per center."

Watson, who made 21 Premier League appearances for Palace in the south London club' 2004/05 relegation season, said: "It's great to be back in the Premier League. Steve Bruce is the big pull here, and it's a great time to be joining the club and a team who are really flying," Watson added.

"I want to thank everyone at Palace, and all the supporters, because they have been great to me. But this is a terrific opportunity for me to play in the top flight again, and I just felt the time was right for a move for me."