IT ALREADY feels like it’s gone on longer than Andy Murray’s return to fitness and Chris Froome’s battle to clear his name but there’s no resolution in sight to the never-ending story of Joss Labadie’s future at Newport County AFC.

The Exiles have been trying to tie down their skipper to a new deal since before Christmas without success – so far.

First his stellar performance live on BT Sport in the FA Cup against Tottenham Hotspur in January put a spanner in the works.

And then his season-ending injury in March further complicated matters.

Labadie’s form in the first half of last season had already won him plenty of admirers and County turned down at least one bid for their captain in January.

But his dominant performance against Spurs stars Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks in the FA Cup fourth round won lavish praise from BT pundit Steven Gerrard and alerted a whole host of other clubs to his talent.

Speaking immediately after that 1-1 draw with the Premier League giants, Labadie said: “I’m here until Newport tell me otherwise.

“I’m enjoying my football. It’s probably the best football I’ve played for a number of years.

“Ever since last season we’ve kept the momentum going and we’re putting Newport on the map. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”

But, keen to keep his options open, the midfielder put off negotiations to extend his contract until the end of the season.

Then fate intervened as the 27-year-old suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in training that is likely to keep him out until October at the earliest and could mean he doesn’t play again this year.

County are still keen to keep Labadie at Rodney Parade and have offered him a new contract, believed to be a two-year deal.

Having waited two months since the end of last season, Flynn ideally wanted the matter done and dusted last week.

But, with an agreement still someway off, the Exiles boss has now said that he’s prepared to give Labadie more time to decide on his future.

Judging by the reaction to that news on the Argus website and various social media platforms, that decision seems to have provoked an angry reaction from County fans.

As pointed out by a number of supporters, no one player should be bigger than the club.

And, with a small squad and a budget tighter than Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat, Flynn cannot afford to wait forever for Labadie.

But anyone who has watched the side in the past two seasons, and particularly since Flynn replaced Graham Westley in March 2017, will know just how important a player Labadie has been for the club.

His injury record is not good but his all-too frequent absences have just highlighted what a difference the skipper does make when he’s in the heart of the Exiles midfield.

Flynn believes that Labadie is worth fighting for, telling the Argus this week: “I think with Joss Labadie in this squad it could be the best Newport County squad that we’ve had in the Football League – providing he comes back fully fit.”

That last point is crucial, of course, and we simply don’t know at this stage when Labadie will return and whether he will be the same player when he does.

But past evidence tells us that he can have an enormous influence on the team when he’s at the top of his game.

And for that reason I don’t see why County should rule out the possibility of keeping Labadie at Rodney Parade.

The attitude from some fans seems to be that the club should withdraw the contract offer and move on but surely there’s no need to do that at this stage?

If there’s still a chance of Labadie pulling on an amber shirt again in 2018-2019 then it’s worth doing everything possible to make it happen.