As Alan Pardew prepares for his third full season in charge of Newcastle United, it’s safe to say the jury is still out on the 52-year-old.

A stunning season in which he led his side to a fifth-place finish was followed by a quiet summer and subsequent terrible campaign which raised many questions about Pardew’s managerial ability.

So this third season is almost a rubber for him, a season which could ultimately decide whether he is regarded as a success or failure as Newcastle United manager.

But what does the former Southampton and West Ham boss have to do to be regarded as the former rather than the latter this year?

Firstly, he must be successful in the transfer window. The root of almost all of Newcastle’s problems last season was undoubtedly their failures in the summer transfer window, which made juggling European and domestic competition nearly impossible.

The small squad failed to muster the intensity or energy to play twice a week and the youngsters that were Pardew’s get-out-of-jail card simply didn’t flourish. This year, with only the Premier League to concentrate on, Pardew is under less pressure to build a big squad and can instead focus on signing quality players to improve the first team.

Once the final touches have been added to the squad, Pardew must figure out a clear system to get the best out of his roster. Too many formations and variations were tried, chopped and changed last season and it led to inconsistent performances from the Magpies.

4-4-2 has been used primarily in pre-season, with Yoan Gouffran getting a chance to impress as an out and out striker. Shola Ameobi has also been in good form, scoring three times in as many games and staking his claim for a starting place.

But Pardew must choose between that and the 4-3-3 formation which seems to suit his strongest players more comfortably. Moussa Sissoko, Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye can all be deployed in their best positions in the formation, so Pardew has a decision to make.

Another choice could be the 4-2-3-1 system, which could provide a chance for someone to take on the “number 10” role and support Papiss Cisse up front.

If Pardew can sort these two problems as quickly as possible, Newcastle will be in a healthy position. Last time they went into a season with domestic success their main aim, they finished fifth and done so with a similar squad to the one they have now, albeit with added depth thanks to January’s spending spree.

However, without doubt the biggest challenge facing Newcastle this season is the off-field relationship between Alan Pardew and Joe Kinnear. If the two cockneys can avoid treading on each other’s toes then it could set the Magpies up for a strong season, however it could all go belly up if they fail to see eye to eye.

To answer the question we set out to, a good season for Alan Pardew is one that bears no resemblance to last, at least domestically. Humiliation at home to arch rivals Sunderland and a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool almost put the final nail in Pardew’s coffin, only for Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board to give Pardew a third season at St James’ Park.

That third season needs to be a success for Pardew and that means finishing in the top half of the Premier League. Even the faintest sniff of a relegation fight will see the pressure pile up once more, while fans would be happier with some stability rather than a push for the top six.

A sure fire way to keep fans happy is with an FA Cup run, after decades of frustration in the prestigious tournament. Newcastle have failed to get anywhere near the business end of the competition since reaching the final two years running in the late 90’s, with a series of defeats to lower league opposition littering recent years.

Any one of these ways would be “good enough” for Alan Pardew and Newcastle United, although the task could not start much harder than with a trip to face Manchester City on August 19.

Time to start convincing, Alan.

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