A GRIEVING father has spoken of his family's heartbreak at not being able to attend the funeral of his son because of strict covid restrictions.

Well-known and respected sports coach Nathan Tully died at the age of just 32 in July after receiving the shock diagnosis in November 2018 that he had tongue cancer.

Dad Brendan Tully said the funeral was arranged for September 1 so the family would be able to make arrangements to travel to the Pacific Island of Guam, where Nathan was living, for the funeral service but were foiled in their attempts to fly over because of restrictions imposed by countries.

Now Mr Tully, aged 55, is calling on the world not to put aside basic human compassion in the fight against the pandemic.

He said: "I was there when Nathan was born and I should have been there - instead I had to watch the service which was being broadcast from here and see my son put to rest.

"I am absolutely devastated, I am still struggling now."

The family spent thousands of pounds trying to get to the island, where Nathan lived with his wife and two children.

But last minute restrictions during the height of the pandemic meant Mr Tully was not even able to leave the UK because Japan ­— where he was flying to before getting a connecting flight to the island ­— was not allowing people in the airport.

His wife, who he is separated from, was able to get as far as Budapest with their daughter, before being turned back.

"This has just torn the family apart," said Mr Tully, who said not being able to attend the funeral had affected his mental and physical health, "When I was told I couldn't fly to Japan because of the restrictions I just collapsed and cried."

The family had gone over last year to support Nathan, a celebrated sports coach, as he underwent treatment for the cancer.

And a huge fundraiser had been organised by the family to pay for Nathan to get treatment in the United States.

Nathan lived in Breightmet and worked as a wrestling coach, teaching the future stars of Bolton. He achieved the Coach of the Year award in 2009 and his name was added to the Spirit of Sport sculpture on the Middlebrook roundabout.

In 2012, he met his Guam-born wife while she was competing in the London 2012 Olympics as a wrestler.

Mr Tully, who still lives in Breightmet, said: "I have always been proud of Nathan, since he was young.

"He brought some young people from poor backgrounds over to the UK a few years ago, it will probably be the only time those young people will ever go abroad. I was away as an international truck driver when the children were young, I was about putting food on the table and I think that wanting to help others comes from his mum.

"Nathan was so well known and they want to name the school gymnasium where he coached after him. He made an impression on everyone he met."