Matthew Connolly knows what it takes to win the Championship. He did it with Queens Park Rangers in 2011, with Reading in 2012 and with Cardiff City in 2013. And he hopes to add Watford in 2015 to that list.

The defender joined the Hornets on loan from Cardiff City until the end of the campaign despite having played 26 games for the Bluebirds this season.

It was a surprise move but one Connolly, who lives in Bushey and was brought up in Hatfield, welcomed.

He has gone from a club who will finish this season in mid-table to a team which could end the campaign in the Premier League.

And Connolly believes the talent the Hornets have at their disposal surpasses that of his former title-winning sides.

He said: “With QPR we had an experienced group of players and at that point I was fairly young. So I would lean on their experience a bit in terms of going for promotion.

“At Reading I was only on loan and didn’t play many games but they were on an incredible run that year. It was just crazy.

“And at Cardiff we had a great work ethic and a great team spirit under Malky (Mackay). But I have to say, the talent in this Watford squad is better than the three teams I have been promoted with.

“So we have every chance. However, the Championship is a completely different league to what is was because it is so tight now.

“The three times I have been promoted the club I was with was well clear at the top. This season it is going to go to the wire.

“I am looking forward to it. I am sure people will be nervous and it is going to be tense, I am sure of that.

“But we have got to enjoy it and we know we are up there for the right reasons. We have to be confident.”

But while Connolly has been promoted to the Premier League on three occasions his top-flight experience has been limited to just nine appearances.

“Of course that is frustrating but it happens to a lot of players,” he said. “A promoted club is given £100-odd million when they get promoted and they are no doubt getting calls all the time from agents to sign this player or that player.

“It is obviously completely up to them who they sign. My job was to get them promoted to the Premier League and then is it up to the management who they put in the team.

“I have been disappointed both times when I have gone up and not played but it is out of my hands.

“I must work as hard as I can and if it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen.”

Connolly signed prior to Watford’s defeat against Ipswich Town. He wasn’t included in the squad for that game because his move hadn’t received international clearance.

The centre-back watched on from the sidelines and, during the 1-0 defeat, Hornets defender Joel Ekstrand suffered a knee ligament injury that will rule him out for the remainder of the calendar year.

That moves Connolly, who made his debut against Derby County on Friday evening, up Watford’s defensive pecking order but he doesn’t expect earning a first-team spot will be any easier following the Swedish international’s injury.

He said: “I only met Ekstrand the day before the Ipswich game and he seemed a really nice guy. It is a very bad injury and all we can do is hope he can get back as quickly as possible.

“But there are a lot of defenders who are fighting for that position. If I am called upon I am ready.

“When I joined I knew Watford were flying high and I knew I wasn’t going to walk straight into the team. I am not naive like that.

“I know my job is to help as best I can. I need to train well, keep the lads going and help the younger boys a bit.

“I have played in the Championship a while so if people want advice I will speak to them. I want to be a good influence around the place and if the manager decides to put me in the team then I am ready when called upon.”

Given his local roots it is unsurprising that Connolly has easily settled into life at Watford. And it helps when you know a few of your new teammates.

“Sean (Murray) I have seen on nights out and we got speaking to each other so I knew him before I arrived,” he explained.

“Lloyd (Doyley) I just know from him being around but I’ve also seen him on a couple of nights out. Lloyd is a legend so I know if I stick by him I will be alright I am sure.

“I also knew Ben Watson from our time at QPR as well. Those three guys have helped me and Troy (Deeney) is a great leader and a great skipper. He also sits next to me in the dressing room which has been nice.

“Then you’ve got the foreign lads as well who I try and speak to if they speak English. But I have settled in really well here.”

While Connolly is focused on helping Watford reach the top flight his long-term future at Cardiff is a little more uncertain.

He has two years left on his contract and Bluebirds manager Russell Slade has said it was a business decision to let Connolly leave rather than a football one.

The defender says he doesn’t know where he will be playing next season but wouldn’t have any objections if he was back in south Wales.

“I will always be respectful as long as I am contracted to Cardiff,” he said. “If I am wanted for next season then I will be there. If not then I will evaluate things in the summer.

“A few of the Cardiff fans wrote to me on Instagram after I’d left and they didn’t really understand the move away.

“But then a lot of stuff happens at Cardiff that the fans are not happy with. The decision to change from blue to red and things like players leaving.

“I always gave everything for Cardiff and the fans appreciated that. I was surprised to leave and I am sure the fans were surprised too.”