NEWPORT County AFC captain Joss Labadie is taking inspiration from fellow midfielder Josh Sheehan as he aims to get back to his best and fire the Exiles to promotion.

Labadie and Sheehan have both recovered from anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries in the past two years.

Sheehan’s injury, which ended a successful loan spell at Rodney Parade, came in March 2017.

It took the former Wales under-21 international almost two years to return to top form, but he is now an integral part of the County midfield.

Labadie suffered the same fate 12 months later, in March 2018, and he feels he’s yet to match his form before the injury.

The skipper is now determined to follow Sheehan’s example by rediscovering his true potential and he believes the pair can work together to help the Exiles improve on last season’s play-off final defeat.

“I don’t feel like I was at my best last season after coming back from a long-term injury and I just wanted to come back and get Newport into League One,” said Labadie.

“In the summer I had options to go elsewhere, but I felt like I had unfinished business here.

“And I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t [win promotion].

“We punched above our weight last season but I think we’re even better this year.”

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Sheehan (above) ended last season in impressive form in a deeper-lying role than he’s previously occupied and he’s been the star performer as the Exiles have climbed to seventh place ahead of today’s trip to Swindon Town.

“He’s been outstanding,” said Labadie.

“From the moment he walked in through the door [in 2016], everyone could see his undoubted quality.

“He had the same injury as me so it took him a bit of time to get back to his best, which is understandable.

“But he’s been our best player by a country mile [this season] and he’s just carried on from the back end of last season.

“He deserves all the praise and all the credit that he’s getting at the moment because he’s really kicked on.

“He’s a tough-tackling midfielder now. He’s taken my role! I’m taking tips from him now.”

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Labadie is no stranger to aggressive challenges himself, but he did take tips from Sheehan during his ACL recovery.

“When I was coming in for my rehab at the start of last season, he was giving me little tips on what to do with bending and strengthening – little tips like that – and it helped me,” he said.

“He’s put that behind him now and he’s shown that the only way you can get back to your best is by playing games and getting that confidence back again.”

Goalscoring is one area that Labadie and Sheehan hope to improve on as County have scored just nine in 10 league games so far.

“It’s not just down to the strikers,” said Labadie. “It’s down to the midfielders and the defenders to chip in as well. It’s a collective thing.

“I’ve got into the box a bit more this season and I’ve missed a few sitters, but it’s something I’m working on every day in training – to try to convert them into goals.

“And I’m sure that, if I keep getting into the positions, the goals will come eventually.”

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