THE closing of one chapter in Kyle Belmonte’s life made turning to the next seem unimaginable – yet he kicked it off in style with a little help.

Belmonte, 20, endured the death of his grandfather Colin Finch shortly after Christmas and last Tuesday brought the final farewell, a funeral that had the Raiders frontrunner questioning whether to play in the club’s long-awaited homecoming at Claines Lane.

Some pondering by the riverbank, encouragement from family and brother-from-another-mother Zaqib Hussain and most importantly a look at granddad’s picture from happy, healthy days soon made up his mind.

And what a call playing turned out to be with Belmonte and Hussain netting two apiece to fire Raiders to a 5-3 win over Cradley Town, Worcester’s likely lads etching their names into the emerging club’s folklore.

“After the Tuesday I didn’t think my head would be on it for the game but I had Zaq there telling me ‘come on, we’ve got this’,” said Belmonte.

“I have always been alongside Zaq at every single club – Redditch, Stratford, Walsall Wood – and my dad text me on the morning to say good luck and for me and Zaq to score granddad a goal.

“It felt good to be back at Claines and with Chris (Cornes, assistant manager) and Logan (Stoddart, team-mate) getting behind everything and helping out with the work down there, it was a mad rush to get it all done.

“We went three up in 10 minutes but then it all went downhill. I thought ‘I can’t let my head go here, that’s not what granddad would have done’.

“He was a fighter and I kept thinking about him. It was 3-3 and me and Zaq got the goals to make it 5-3 and win the game. It was weird, like it was meant to happen.

“The fact we said goodbye on the Tuesday and then I did so well with Zaq on the Saturday meant the world to me.

“Granddad had gone through non-stop pain, suffering with illness and feeling weak for at least 10 years but his mind was always in the right place to keep pushing and stay strong.

“Every time I would drop round at the weekend he would want to know how I was getting on. He was always interested and got me supporting (Manchester) United and liking football even more.

“If I can be half the person he was, with his strength and determination to make the best of everything, then I know full well I can go a long way in life.

“If I feel low or my mental health is affected, I know I can always turn to the memory of my granddad.”

Coping with the loss and his own troubles has been a challenge for Belmonte but settling down among friends at Raiders is helping after a nomadic start to life on the non-league circuit.

“I haven’t been in a good place for a while now but I am lucky to have the right people around me in football,” he added.

“Sometimes, when I am not in the right place, it can affect me but that’s not who I really am.

“To have people like Chris, Karl (Gormley, manager) on your side, Brad Birch and Nathan Hayward, lads I know from football who get in touch, all the Raiders team, it is great.

“I have my mom, my two best mates Luke and Zaq, Kirk (Layton, Raiders captain), so there is always someone there telling me it is all going to be okay and making sure it is.

“Even my ex-girlfriend has been there, she’s been a rock, and with all that support I always think ‘I will get there in the end’, even when I am feeling at my lowest.

“I thought the news about my granddad would make it all worse again because I had just started finding myself.

“I took his funeral card with me to the spot where he took me fishing and was going to let it go while I was there.

“Then I decided not to. I looked at his picture, healthy and smiling, and I didn’t get to remember that side because I was around 10 (years old) when he started getting ill.

“I wanted to keep that picture and put it in my football bag on Saturday, I gave it a kiss before I went out and am going to do that before each game for good luck, for me and for Raiders.

“That way he’s always there if ever I am feeling low. I want to take his fight into everything I do in my life.”

Next up is arguably the biggest challenge so far as West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division leaders Shifnal Town heading to Claines Lane today (3pm).

The Shropshire side tops the table by six points with 17 wins out of 19 to date.

“They beat us 5-1 first time out, that was early doors and they were absolutely flying,” said Belmonte.

“They still are flying but they are beatable. You put us against anyone and on our day we will show we can beat them.“We played Stourport Swifts, drew in the cup and beat them on penalties but everyone knew we should have won that game.

“We went on to play Alvechurch in the next round and only got knocked out on penalties, the draw was the right result but there was no reason to think we couldn’t have beaten them too.

“With Shifnal, we just have to be at our best, we know we can do it.”