A 27-YEAR-OLD footballer who suffered a stroke just hours after a match has died.

Tributes have been paid to Bryan Herbert who played for Bacup Borough FC for 11 years.

His family described him as 'the life and soul of the party' and his manager said he was 'quick with a good eye for goal.'

Bacup's away cup tie against Nelson last night was called off as a mark of respect after his death on Tuesday.

Bryan, of Clough Road, Bacup, suffered a stroke eight weeks ago and died at Royal Blackburn Hospital surrounded by his family.

The former chef, who had worked at The Old Cobblers and Ninos in Rawtenstall, had been due to jet off on holiday to Zante with his girlfriend Vicky Bruty when he was taken ill on August 15 after playing a match the evening before.

She said: ”The morning we were due to go on holiday he had woken up with a really bad headache and was joking that he hoped that it wouldn’t spoil the holiday.

“We had been talking about how we were going to move in together when we got back and that we wanted to start a family.

“At about 8am he said he was feeling a lot worse and said he couldn’t move. He was screaming out in pain then he stopped being able to talk so we called an ambulance. "He suffered a massive stroke. Even though he hadn’t been able to talk again, he started laughing and was able to move part of his arms and was aware of what was going on around him. We thought he was going to get better.

“But we knew the moment we saw him on Tuesday that he wasn’t going to make it. Doctors had told us that he has suffered more brain damage but were unable to tell us if he had suffered another stroke.

“Doctors said thet they couldn’t understand how he had managed to survive for so long."

He spent four weeks in the critical care unit at Royal Blackburn Hospital after doctors found that he had suffered a large stroke which left him unable to speak and with very limited movement.

He was moved onto a ward after doctors had been pleased with his progress and had spent 12 hours at a Stroke Unit in Pendle Community Hospital, Nelson, before his condition got worse.

On Monday he was moved back onto critical care where is condition detoriated and doctors found that he had further damage to his brain.

On Tuesday his family were told he also had a damaged bowel and that there was nothing more doctors could do for him.

Bryan attended St Mary’s RC Primary School in Bacup follwed by All Saints Catholic School in Rawtenstall. He carried out a catering course in Rochdale where he trained to become a chef.

His mum Alicia Herbert said that the family had hoped and prayed that he would pull though.

She said: “You never expect something like this to happen to your child. You always think that they will out-live you. He had never been ill before and had no signs of anything being wrong. I can’t understand why this has happened.

“Bryan was the life and soul of the party. He lived for football and loved spending time with his friends. He was a family man. He loved spending time with his nieces and nephews and treated them like they were his own children.”

Bryan, a lifelong Liverpool fan, played for Bacup Junior's side at 12 before progressing to the seniors at 16. He also played for Stacksteads St Josephs and was captain for Little Queen’s pub team.

Bacup manager Brent Peters, who is now planning to stage an annual game in his memory, said: "I am shocked and deeply upset by the death of Bryan. He loved his football, he was quick with a good eye for goal.

“Bryan was fully committed be it a training game or a fully fledged official game. His commitment, his enthusiasm, his determination could never be questioned.

“Bryan Herbert's legacy will always remain with me and Bacup Borough Football Club. There is a big void left that will never be filled. Bryan Herbert will be a sad loss to not only his close family but his football family.”

Bryan also leaves dad Gary Robinson, brothers Gary, Josh, Zak and sisters Gemma and Lisa.