Liverpool legend Craig Johnston to speak at Boolaroo Sports Club

The story of Boolaroo could almost be a Bruce Springsteen song.

Add Craig Johnston to the story of the long-time industrial town and you've got your main character - a boy chasing a dream who was born to run.

Johnston grew up at Boolaroo and Speers Point. It's a place close to his heart.

"It always will be," Johnston said.

Johnston famously left home as a 15-year-old with the aim of becoming a professional soccer player in England.

He succeeded against all odds, miraculously becoming part of the Liverpool team of the 1980s - one of the greatest sides in soccer history. He became and still is Australia's most decorated footballer.

He went on to famously invent and patent the Adidas Predator football boot. In subsequent decades he spent much of his time living in Florida and London.

Despite living a life among the rich and famous, Johnston loves to be known by the nickname given to him on a Steve Waugh charity ride - "The Boy from Boolaroo".

Now he's back home, living in Newcastle. On Sunday, he'll tell his "grassroots to glory" story at Boolaroo Sports Club.

Whenever he's in the area, heading to Toronto to see his mum or for some other reason, he always goes through Boolaroo and Speers Point.

"Everybody else goes around the roundabout at Speers Point and along the lake, or past Bunnings [on west Lake Macquarie's main road]. I go through Boolaroo and Speers Point," he said.

"It was never a thriving commercial place like Warners Bay. It was almost a forgotten town on the edge of the lake. It sounds like a Springsteen song."

Johnston has fond memories of growing up in the area. He recalled playing soccer with his mates in "Peter Tredinnick's backyard in Boolaroo, near the sulphide".

"If you were any good, you got invited there."

Boolaroo, he said, was "a tough part of town, as was most of Newcastle".

"We had the lake, and soccer was very strong down there with the Macquarie seniors and juniors. We had horses growing up as well."

Johnston said it was the "most idealistic upbringing any kid could ever have".

He recalls with a laugh that the Aboriginal translation of the Boolaroo name is "place of many flies".

Funny names aside, the locals are proud of their town.

"We were a good community. Speers Point and Boolaroo primary schools fed into Booragul High School. That was the incubator of Newcastle and Australian soccer. More top-class soccer talent came out of those three schools than I think any other school in Australia," he said.

Soccer talents in the area included Johnston's mates Peter and Howard Tredinnick, Brett Cowburn, Michael Boogaard and Malcolm McClelland. They all went on to play for Newcastle KB United.

In those days, Booragul High beat the best Sydney had to offer in a school tournament called the Tasman Cup.

"They were glory days," he said.

Johnston said the area's older generation "pulled all us younger ones through".

"They were all good soccer families. All our dads were hard as nails and all our mums were sweet as angels. They were full of wisdom, including my own folks. It was good old fashioned Australia."

The event starts on Sunday at 11.30am. Tickets, which cost $15, are available online through Sticky Tickets.

Liverpool's Glory Days

Many Novocastrians follow Liverpool because of Craig Johnston.

The club's glory days have returned to a level not seen since Johnston's heyday.

"Liverpool is more than a sports brand. It's a group of people called Scousers," Johnston said.

He said Liverpool's current manager Jurgen Klopp had tapped into "not just the players, but the town".

"He's made them feel proud of who they are, where they come from and where they're going."

It's an ethos that newly appointed Newcastle Jets coach Carl Robinson would do well to emulate.

"I'm reading everything in the paper that he [Robinson] says. He's saying all the right things. He's been there and done it [as a player]," Johnston said.

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