DANNY Shittu says captaining Millwall to an FA Cup semi-final is an experience he will "never forget" – but admits he has had to learn how to become a true leader.
Shittu has thrived in his new role since being handed the armband in the wake of a long-term injury to Paul Robinson and will lead the team out against Wigan at Wembley on Saturday.
But the Nigerian defender says being a skipper has not come naturally to him: "I don't know what a natural captain is," he explained. "I came up with my own ways and techniques.
"I had to talk a lot with the gaffer and the backroom staff. When the referee wasn't giving us much at Crystal Palace, the gaffer said: 'Keep it easy, be a captain, be influential but play your own game.'
"It is a learning experience for me and it has been a great learning experience. To achieve this while I have been captain is something I will never forget.
"I didn't ask to be made captain. When the manager came up to me and said: 'Dan, I want you to be captain, you're good captain material', I was shocked. I had to learn how to be a captain.
"Normally, I'd go on the pitch, be loud, come off and that was it. Now I have to do the right things. I am glad I can repay the gaffer and the fans with this cup run.
"We are a family at Millwall. I've been playing for 14 years and I can't think of a club where I've been so close with the players. In the past I'd do my thing, go home and not get involved in anything else.
"I have got everybody's phone number in my phone book. I think I've made some long term friends here. It means a lot. A lot of people say this and that about Millwall but it's a great club to play for."
Shittu, who scored the winner in the Lions' quarter-final replay against Blackburn Rovers, concedes Wigan are favourites going into the last-four tie but insists an upset is more than possible.
"It has been a crazy couple of weeks," Shittu said. "We have calmed down and are preparing for this game like any other. We're going to go out there, work hard and do what we need to do.
"Wigan have got good strikers. When you're playing against a Premier League team, and I have been fortunate enough to have experience of that, you've got to be mentally aware.
"If you make a mistake, they could go and score. It's all about making sure that everybody does the right thing. Not many people will be expecting us to win but we're not seeing it like that.
"We believe we can win the game. We tend to play better when we are underdogs but we know it is going to be a hard game."