A FOOTBALLER taken ill on the day he was due to go on holiday with his girlfriend died of natural causes, an inquest heard.

Bryan James Herbert was just 27 when he suffered a stroke on August 15 last year.

The former Bacup Borough player was left unable to talk and passed away in Royal Blackburn Hospital after eight weeks of treatment on October 9.

Coroner Michael Singleton told the inquest in Blackburn yesterday that doctors ‘were unable to do anything’ once Mr Herbert, a chef from Clough Road, Bacup, had suffered a rare blood clot at the base of his brain.

Consultant pathologist Dr Muhammad Aslam said his initial post-mortem examination was inconclusive and that he had to ask for special analysis of Mr Herbert’s brain.

Following tests by an expert neuropathologist, Dr Daniel Du-Plessis, the cause of death was given as bronchopneumonia, brought on by an artery tear which causes blood vessels at the base of the brain to leave and form a clot, leading to a stroke.

The cause of the artery tear remains unknown, but Dr Du-Plessis could not rule out high blood pressure or a migraine as potential causes.

Dr Aslam said it was ‘not common’ for such a clot to occur in somebody so young, and that although he could make no direct link between Mr Herbert’s death and his football career, playing sport is a ‘well-documented cause’ of such an injury.

He said: “The brain, unlike the heart, has a very small life without blood. It can only survive for a few seconds. After that, nothing can be done.”

Mr Herbert’s mother, Alicia, said her son had complained of headaches six weeks before his stroke after returning from football training.

Mr Singleton said: “That somebody fit, healthy, an active sportsman, that something like this could happen to him, is unbelievable.

“As a parent myself, I can’t begin to imagine the trauma of seeing Bryan reduced to this in circumstances where doctors were unable to do anything.

“It has taken a very eminent neuropathologist to carry out a detailed examination over many months to give us an answer.”