HE was perhaps the most improbable crowd favourite ever to grace the hallowed turf at Turton Road.
Unlike Andrew Johns and Craig Johnston, he was no home-grown world-beater.
Unlike Sir Bobby Charlton and Emile Heskey, his reputation did not precede him on the strength of his deeds in World Cups or for heavyweight English clubs.
Unlike Joel Griffiths, he did not leave a grand final triumph as a legacy to be savoured for years and decades to come.
But for those who saw him play, the name Ken Boden will always hold a special place in their hearts, evoking memories of spectacular goals, giant-killing wins and collective Novocastrian pride.
As Newcastle footballing doyen Ray Baartz told H2 this week: "He was a super player. He was a player who every time he got involved you would anticipate something happening, whether that was scoring a goal or beating a man.
"He was certainly a crowd favourite and deservedly so. I think he was the best player in the league during the time that he was with us."
Neither KB United officials nor Boden could have imagined the impact the mercurial midfielder from the north of England would have on the 1978 Phillips Soccer League.
At the time, he was a 28-year-old journeyman who had battled away in England's lower divisions with clubs like Hull City, Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, Matlock Town, Bridlington and Doncaster Rovers.
A mutual friend recommended him to KB's inaugural manager, Alan Vest, and it did not take much persuading for Boden and his wife Shirley to pack their bags for a two-year stint Down Under.
A painter and decorator in an era when players earned peanuts, Boden saved his real artistry for on the pitch.
In his two seasons with KB, he scored 26 goals in 52 games, including 14 in his first campaign, after which he received the league's Player of the Year award.
"You see players that come out here who've played at a higher level and they don't adjust," Baartz said.
"I guess he was just the perfect fit."
Boden became the drawcard as the best soccer crowds in Australia flocked to what was then known as the International Sports Centre.
As former Newcastle Herald scribe Neil Jameson recalled of the club's historic first game, a 4-1 loss to Hakoah Eastern Suburbs on March 5, 1978: "The official crowd figure was 15,000 but who knows how many crammed into the same joint which the Jets call home today. Later, officials found a hole in the fence big enough to drive a bus through."
The following season a league-record 18,367 flocked to watch KB play Sydney Olympic, hoping for their talismanic import to produce another moment or two of magic.
After two halcyon years, however, reality dawned. Financially embattled from the outset, KB were forced to sell Boden, collecting a $30,000 transfer fee when he signed a four-year deal with Sydney City.
Baartz said that in hindsight Boden's transfer "was the beginning of the end for KB United", who within two years folded and were replaced by Newcastle Rosebud.
After four years with Sydney City and half a season with Sydney Croatia, Boden finished his career, aged 40, playing State League in Perth, where he lives to this day.
"I told my wife we'll drive over and if we don't like Perth we can always come back," he recalled. "It took us a week to get here."
Boden's Australian adventure led to him becoming naturalised and playing in 26 games for the Socceroos, including 13 full internationals and a World Cup qualifier.
Twice he lined up against England, which he admitted was a surreal experience.
"We played them on the Sydney Cricket Ground," he said. "They started to play God Save the Queen and I almost started singing, but then I remembered I was playing for Australia."
Atter arriving in Perth in 1985, Boden and Shirley have happily settled, although they are pondering returning to England when he eventually hangs up the paintbrush and roller.
Next week, for the first time since he headed west, the 62-year-old will return to Newcastle for KB United's 35th-year reunion, which doubles as the Men of Football Hunter Chapter's annual get-together.
More than 140 footballing stalwarts - including former players and staff from the inaugural KB team - will gather for lunch and a few nostalgic beers at the Duke of Wellington Hotel on Friday, before making the short trek to Hunter Stadium to support their latter-day counterparts against Brisbane Roar.
The always-entertaining Mark Bosnich will be the compere.
"I'm looking forward to it," Boden said. "But it's been so long they won't recognise me."
Likewise, Baartz would not miss the occasion for quids.
Asked to reflect on his two years at KB United, Boden admitted it was his career highlight.
"I really enjoyed it," he said.
"It was new for everyone, wasn't it?
"Obviously if you play well and score a few goals, you're going to enjoy it. It was just sad I had to leave."
For the Novocastrian faithful, who adopted Ken Boden and loved him as one of their own, the feeling was mutual.
A small number of tickets are still available for next week's Men of Football lunch. Contact Bill Pryce (0421 203 629).
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