AFTER finally returning to action after nine long months on the sidelines, Joss Labadie has vowed to repay the faith shown in him by Newport County AFC and help them achieve something special this season.

The 28-year-old was back on the pitch for the first time since March as he played the final 20 minutes of Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at Cheltenham Town.

County lost 7-6 on penalties, with Labadie converting his spot-kick, but the former skipper was just delighted to put his injury nightmare behind him after recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.

“It’s been a long nine months and it was an amazing feeling to be back out there on the pitch,” he said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the result we wanted but it’s positive for me to be back out there playing.

“My knee felt good, I felt strong and it was nice to score my penalty.

“I’m on track to where I want to be and hopefully I can build up gradually towards the Christmas period.”

Manager Michael Flynn has said that he will not rush Labadie’s return but the midfielder is keen to feature in Saturday’s League Two clash at Swindon Town, if possible.

“If the gaffer needs me, I’m ready. I’m not sure how long he’d want me to play but I’m ready if called upon.

“He’s been keeping the reins on me. I’ve been pestering him to get me involved but we had this one pencilled in and thankfully he let me play.

“We said I’d have 20 minutes first, then 30, then 45 and build up from there.

“But I’m just happy to be back involved and back around the lads."

Labadie admits that he has found the rehabilitation process tough and he paid tribute to those who have helped him through it.

“It’s been difficult but luckily I’ve had the support of good people, the club and my family,” he added.

“It’s like anything in life; you get on with it and you deal with it.

“Thankfully I have and I’m back better and stronger now.

“The club has been amazing all the way through my rehab. I can’t thank them enough and hopefully I can repay them now.”

Labadie failed to agree a new contract to stay at Rodney Parade in the summer before re-joining the club in October on a deal that runs until the end of the season.

And he’s confident that County can maintain their impressive start to the campaign.

“I was always open-minded [about coming back],” he said.

“Nothing managed to get sorted back then but I went away and did my intense rehab programme and I’m back here now and ready to give Newport 100 per cent.

“I knew the team and the nucleus that we had last season and the gaffer has managed to build on that.

“They’ve proved it throughout the course of the season so far going up against the best teams.

“They’ve just gone from strength to strength and I’m grateful to be back and be a part of it.”