MICHAEL JOHNSTON, the Kilmarnock chairman, has insisted that his club would have completed the signing of Dean Shiels this summer had it not been for the uncertainty caused by which league Rangers would be playing in.

The attacker scored 15 goals for the Ayrshire club last term but chose to move to Ibrox this week after becoming a free agent.

The Northern Ireland internationalist's decision to alight in the Irn-Bru Third Division despite interest from Rugby Park and abroad was been put down to Rangers' undiminished allure as well as their superior financial might compared to other clubs in Scotland. But Johnston has confirmed that he was in an "advanced stage of discussions" with Shiels' agent and believes the player was intent on staying with Kilmarnock, a club where he had agreed to take a substantial wage cut to sign for permanently in January.

The terms on a new deal would have stretched the club's finances and the subsequent decision to place Rangers into the lower leagues compelled the Kilmarnock chairman to redress the budget available for players. That effectively brought talks with Shiels to an impasse and the attacker was unveiled by Rangers on Tuesday.

"The problem was this had all come upon us fairly quickly over the summer at the point in which the CVA was rejected by HMRC and it became clear the newco scenario was going to unfold," said Johnston, speaking a press conference to announce railway contractors QTS as the club's new sponsor. "That was the tipping point and we had to brush down our financial projections for next year. We had to put on hold the signing of new players.

"We were close to agreeing terms with the manager's son, Dean, and he was keen to stay with us. We were at an advanced stage of discussions with his agent and if it had been a normal course of events he would have been our player and not Rangers'. It's extremely frustrating because he was keen to re-sign and stay in Scotland. We were going to have to push the boat out to match the terms his agent was looking for but we were prepared to do that and but for Rangers' problems he'd be our player."

The six-figure sponsorship agreement with QTS and the ratification of a new deal with Sky and ESPN has assuaged fears of financial oblivion gripping the Rugby Park club. There have also been innovative efforts to boost season ticket sales – with manager Kenny Shiels even undertaking a tour of pubs and bookies in the town to canvas the local community.

"It's about embracing the community and bringing the club to the community and I hope that there's reciprocal positivity," said Shiels, who also revealed he will be without Paul Heffernan for two months after the striker suffered a broken collarbone. "We got a few extra sales from it. I'm so proud of football that it's the main industry. People have to understand that we're trying to provide entertainment for them.

"We also delivered season tickets to people in Edinburgh – I went to people's houses. The reaction was positive. We can't look to be bitter, only better. If everyone adopts that attitude we've got a great chance."