DAN SHITTU returns to Charlton Athletic tomorrow (Saturday) determined to prove they were wrong to sell him before he had the chance to prove his worth at first-team level.

The Addicks gave the gentle giant from Nigeria his big break in the game yet he failed to make an appearance at The Valley and was sold to Queens Park Rangers in 2002 for £350,000.

Shittu has developed into an international defender since and he aims to show the Charlton fans tomorrow "what they missed out on".

The man mountain is difficult to halt at the best of times but, with a point to prove, he could be unstoppable against Alan Pardew's side.

"I thank Charlton for giving me the chance in the game," said the strapping 27-year-old. "If it wasn't for them then I wouldn't be a professional foootballer.

"I never got the chance to play professional football there. I was very disappointed about that and every time I go back there I try to show them what they missed out on."

Shittu revealed he almost missed the boat altogether, admitting he owes his career to his persistence, self-belief and a favour from a friend in one of the most remarkable rags to riches football tales you will hear.

"When I was 17 I remember sitting in my living room and I wrote a letter begging for a trial and sent it off to 20 clubs," he explained. "I told them I was big, fast and strong. But they all said no and rejected me. I've still got five or six of the letters.

"I wasn't going to give up so I picked up the first letter, which was was from Charlton, and gave them a call.

"I managed to somehow get through to the Academy director and begged him on the phone for 20 minutes to give me a trial. I'm surprised he didn't put the phone down on me. I told him to call my agent.

"Obviously, I never had an agent at that point so I got one of my friends to pretend to be my agent. He ended up calling my friend and he told them that a few clubs wanted me. He let me come in for a trial and I was there for six weeks.

"A lot of people still thought I was wasting my time as I was pretty raw back then. So to get to where I am now I see it as a big achievement."

Shittu is not the finished article but he makes up for his lack of natural ability with his athleticism and raw power.

It was those qualities that caught the eye of Nigerian national coach Berti Vogts and prompted the German to make Shittu an integral part of his plans for the recent African Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles reached the semi-final before being knocked out by ten-man Ghana.

"To lose the way we did was very, very disappointing," he said. "On the day we believed we were the better team so to lose was very, very disappointing.

"To just qualify from the group stages was disappointing because we should have done better. After qualifying we thought we would go on and win it. So to lose, especially to Ghana, was hard to take. It was a sad day."

Shittu was comforted by the fact that he had a promotion push with Watford to return to and he revealed he regularly kept up to date with the Hornets' progress during his stay in Africa.

"The first hotel we stayed in had internet access but the next hotel things fell apart so I had to rely on a lot of phone calls and speaking to the lads and the missus," he said. "While you are out there you have to spend a lot of time in your rooms and there are people waiting outside and it was so hot."

It must have therefore been something of a shock when Shittu stepped off the plane last Thursday in the middle of the English winter. The defender was also caught cold by the new faces at Vicarage Road.

"It's like a new environment with all the new players we have signed and also Marlon had gone," he said. "We have two new guys in the back four and when it comes to defending you have to know how each other plays.

"They had won 3-0 the game before I came back so I didn't expect to play. Luckily, I got back into the team.

"I was always looking forward to coming back as we've got a big mission here."