Promoted trio set for season of struggle

LONDON, Aug 7, 2011 (AFP) - Queens Park Rangers' fans were put through the wringer before the club secured their return to the Premier League last term -- but the coming season threatens to be just as turbulent.

Despite a superb season which saw them claim the Championship title, QPR fans were made to sweat through the possibility the club may be hit with a hefty points deduction over the illegal signing of Alejandro Faurlin.

That threat was removed on the final day of the season when the club received only an 875,000 pound fine.

But any hope that Rangers' reprieve over the Faurlin affair would lead to an outbreak of tranquility at Loftus Road have proved ill-founded.

Manager Neil Warnock continues to face relentless speculation over his future, while the club may also face a takeover from Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes.

Factor in an outcry from fans over a 40-percent increase in season ticket prices, as well as a transfer tussle over captain Adel Taraabt, and it all adds up to a summer of simmering discontent.

The fact that Warnock has largely been forced to augment his squad with free transfers, most notably Cardiff's Jay Bothroyd, has fuelled conspiracy theories that the clock is ticking on the manager's tenure.

Nevertheless Warnock was given £1.25 million to acquire Blackpool striker DJ Campbell, and the club have also been linked with Liverpool's Joe Cole.

The other side who gained automatic promotion from the Championship, Norwich, have had a relatively quiet summer by comparison.

Under the astute management of Paul Lambert, the Canaries have been catapulted into the Premier League via back-to-back promotion campaigns.

Norwich, who return to the top-flight following a six-year absence, have had a quiet pre-season but Lambert is confident his team will deliver when their campaign kicks off at Wigan on August 13.

"I never read too much into pre-season, that is not my concern," Lambert said. "It is the Wigan game we have to be ready for and I am pretty sure once it starts for real, the football will become a different breed."

Norwich's schedule includes consecutive away fixtures against Manchester United and Liverpool in October -- something Lambert is relishing.

"You look at back-to-back away games at Manchester United and Liverpool in October and that just shows the level we've worked hard to get to.

"We've earned the right to be here - it is a great challenge and exciting times for the club and the fans."

Norwich's plans have been disrupted by injuries to centre-back Elliott Ward and striker James Vaughan.

However Belgian defender Ritchie de Laet has joined on loan from Manchester United while former West Brom centre-back Leon Barnett has also returned to full fitness.

The third promoted side are Brendan Rodgers' Swansea, who are most pundits favourites to go straight back down.

The charismatic Rodgers however is unfazed about the prospect of leading the first Welsh club into the Premier League.

"Having the big teams go to Swansea -- they've never played there and it's a new story. I'm looking forward to challenging, knowing we'll be underdogs in nearly every game," Rogers said.

Swansea have been bolstered by the recent arrival of Wayne Routledge, Leroy Lita and Dutch goalkeeper Michel Worm.

"It's going to be a difficult first season in the Premier League; it's going to be tough," Routledge said.

"But everyone is confident and looking forward to it. After all, playing in the Premier League is what you dream of. I'm excited about it."

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