Northwich, Cheshire born centre half John Boden played for local side Wharton Juniors, as well as hometown team Northwich Victoria in 1901, before beginning his professional career by joining Glossop in November 1902, making his Football League debut against Burnley the next month. He spent three years with the Second Division side, scoring 4 goals in 95 appearances. In May 1905 he moved to Clapton Orient and played 33 times during the 1905-06 campaign, scoring 8 goals, including playing in the club’s first Football League match in September 1905.
In March 1906 Boden signed for Aston Villa but struggled to hold down a regular place in the first team. After just 2 goals in 17 games in 15 months with the club he moved on, returning briefly to Northwich Victoria before signing for Reading in June 1907. In two years at Elm Park he played almost 70 times before joining Croydon Common in 1909.
He made 20 appearances scoring twice for Croydon before joining Plymouth Argyle in September 1910. Signed primarily as a half-back, Boden was an extremely versatile player and often played as a centre-forward. In fact, during his brief spell with Croydon he played in no less than six different positions – centre-half, centre-forward, right-back, left-back, right-half and left-half. His goalscoring record of 32 goals in 67 appearances whilst at Home Park shows that he performed his duty with no little success and the 1911-12 club handbook describes that he “helped Argyle valuably at centre-forward last season, his terrific shooting securing many league points last back end”.
He again performed well up-front throughout the 1911-12 campaign when Plymouth were runners up in the Southern League, including scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 win against his former club Reading in April 1912. In October 1912 season Boden left Home Park to join Gillingham, where he spent the remainder of the campaign, scoring 5 goals in 20 appearances. In 1913 he returned to Northwich Victoria before ending his career with brief spells at Stalybridge Celtic and Witton Albion before his retirement.