Mr Kitto, the teacher, paves way for Ryan, the leader

Ryan Kitto preparing to play for Adelaide United.
2022/23 tickets on sale.

Throughout his professional career, Ryan Kitto has always had to do it the hard way.

Whether it be through fierce competition for spots, international talent or simply timing, Kitto had three separate stints with United on the path to one of Carl Veart’s most dependable starters.

It’s not only his on-field performances he can be credited for, Kitto has emerged as a genuine leader among the group, skills which have naturally improved alongside his experience in the classroom as a studying teacher.

In a typically South Australian situation, teenage goalkeeper, Steven Hall, was one of Kitto’s students at SEDA College, a partner of Adelaide United who offer a sports development program for years 11 and 12.

Ryan Kitto in Round 1 of the 2022/23 season.

When quizzed if Steven was head of the class or… not, Kitto returned a diplomatic response as expected from the approachable wingback.

“Stevie is a really good kid and I can’t say a bad word about him from our classroom times together,” Kitto said.

“It was pretty funny how it came about, in terms of me also studying to be a teacher at the same time off the field and knowing Steven on the pitch as well.

“He was cracking into the first team, and we still joke about it at training but actually it was helpful for me too to have a kid in the classroom that I knew already.”

Adelaide United’s Liberty A-League Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, also teaches at SEDA, further strengthening SA’s six degrees of separation and, most importantly, the Club’s imprint in the local community.

As is often the case with Australian sports stars of all codes, they are encouraged by their player development managers to pursue extra pathways away from the game to broaden their career aspects.

Kitto credits teaching for helping him progress into United’s leadership group as a Vice Captain, a monumental rise in just one year considering a lean 2020/21 season that yielded just 15 appearances.

Ryan Kitto wearing the Captain’s armband for the first time for Adelaide – against Newcastle Jets in 2021/22.

“I like to pass on my experience and, I suppose, the leadership thing comes naturally and the teaching pathway has helped me too.

“And whether I’ve specifically got the title (of Captain) or not, it doesn’t really change who I am or what I do, I’m going to be that person regardless.

“I guess now I have more of an official role, but I don’t really think too much is different.

“I always strive to be that guy that encourages people on the football field, because it also helps them away from the game and I think that is equally important.”

Testament to this is young midfielder, Ethan Alagich, who this week noted his senior teammate was among the first to approach and converse with him during the trip to face Floreat Athena in Perth, where Alagich made his professional debut in the Australia Cup. Such a seemingly small gesture means so much to a young player new to the professional environment.

And now Kitto, who’s amassed over 150 appearances in all competitions for United, is rapidly on course for Bruce Djite’s fifth-placed matches record (165) a feat the 28-year-old could only dream of reaching when he was sent back to South Australian National Premier League side, West Torrens Birkalla, after being overlooked for a contract in 2015.

Ryan Kitto playing for West Torrens Birkalla.

His most successful season to date was in 2017/18 when he was United’s leading league goal scorer with seven in 24 games, along with three assists.

“It’s certainly been a journey, but one that I’m very appreciative of because I’ve always had to work for it,” he said.

“But I do like that, because it makes me appreciate every single day that I get to go to training and every single time I get to pull on the Reds shirt and play.

“I know it’s not something that comes easily.

“I just try to make the most of every single opportunity and try to take a holistic approach to it and not try to get too down in the moment because I know how quickly things can turn around and improve.”

Kitto was a standout in the weekend’s frustrating loss to Macarthur. And the teacher by night will hope to continue that form into Sydney FC this weekend before a long-awaited return to a revamped Coopers Stadium where they will face Perth Glory.

“We are massively excited to get back in front of our home fans at a revamped Coopers and it’s well overdue,” Kitto said.

“The renovation is going to make the best football stadium in the country even better, but first we focus on Sydney this week.

“The boys are excited to have the opportunity to play at the new Allianz Stadium and obviously Sydney has some familiar faces, but a lot of new ones as well.

“We’ve watched them in the early weeks and they’ve been going quite well so it’s a perfect game for us to turn things around, make a statement, and show everyone where we believe we are and what we can achieve this season.”

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.