A year ago, news of a six week injury to midfield talisman Dele Alli would’ve sent aftershocks through stadium:mk, rocking it to the core.
But in Samir Carruthers, Dons boss Karl Robinson believes he has a replacement in waiting.
Even dislocated shoulder wasn’t enough to force the former Aston Villa man from the field as Dons crushed rivals Peterborough 3-0 at stadium:mk, with Carruthers playing a stand-out role in the centre of the park - Alli’s usual stomping ground.
The 18-year-old was absent from the game with an ankle injury, and on Monday, his parent club Tottenham revealed he’d be out for up to six weeks as a result of some over-zealous tackling at Colchester a week earlier.
Ironically, speculation surrounding Alli’s future in the summer prompted Robinson to move for Carruthers as an ear-marked replacement.
The 21-year-old shone during his loan spell with the club last season, but has struggled to find consistency since signing on a permanent basis.
In fact, it’s fair to say many questioned his purchase after a particularly disappointing display against Crawley Town in January, when he was hauled off after 52 minutes, and fortunate not to be sent off after accumulating countless fouls in the first 45 minutes.
But since then, Carruthers has looked like a man reborn, and a man desperate to cement himself as a first team regular, rather than an option from the bench.
Another excellent display came in the centre of the park in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United, while he lifted the tempo of the game when he appeared in the 0-0 draw with Bristol City - where he should have won a late penalty for his side.
While there were a string of players who could’ve been crowned Man of the Match against Posh, Carruthers’ performance should be held in higher esteem because of who he replaced.
Seen as a flair-infused winger primarily, Carruthers’ inclusion in ‘the Alli role’ alongside Darren Potter is a job that many have tried, and failed with.
Ben Reeves’ talents are best suited elsewhere, as proven with his brace in the number 10 position on Saturday, while Mark Randall doesn’t look ready to step into the breach yet, still struggling with an abdominal injury.
Running box-to-box, strong tackling, coming short for passes, disrupting the opposition, all the while protecting Darren Potter - these things Alli does with aplomb.
And on Saturday, so did Carruthers. And if it wasn’t for a dislocated shoulder, he would’ve done so for the entire 90 minutes.
As he grew into the game, so did Dons’ dominance against a quickly-crumpling Peterborough side.
If more evidence were needed, his tackle just in front of the dugout shortly before half time - a crunching 50-50 - was enough to make everyone sit up and watch. No theatrics, no yelps, no nonsense. He just puffed out his chest and furrowed his brow - his moment of justification.
“Samir showed everyone his hunger and desire for the cause,” said Robinson afterwards.
“We thought we were going to lose Dele in the summer, so I brought Samir in. We prepared right!”
Alli will undoubtedly be missed when he departs for the Premier League in the summer, and with a £5 million price tag over his head, it’s hard not to be.
But with six weeks to prove his worth in the centre, Carruthers could yet make that hole look a lot smaller than it did just a few weeks ago.