Aberdeen legend Bobby Clark believes the Dons squad have the characters and experience to handle the departure of captain Scott Brown.
The Dons confirmed the sudden departure of 36-year-old Brown on Tuesday with the former Celtic skipper leaving Pittodrie to focus on his coaching career.
Brown joined the Reds last summer as a player-coach as part of Stephen Glass’ management team but was told his coaching opportunities would be limited under new boss Jim Goodwin.
Goodwin described midfielder Ross McCrorie as “future captain material” when the 23-year-old signed a new deal until 2026 last month.
Clark – who has made the third most appearances in the history of the Dons – says the challenge now is for the remaining Dons, including McCrorie, to fill the leadership void.
He said: “They are losing Scott at a crucial time in the season but new leaders have to step up.
“Sometimes you don’t know if there is a leader there until the previous leader disappears for one reason or the other.
“This is when you find out who the leaders are.
“Ross McCrorie is a tremendous player who works very hard.
“He has signed a new deal recently so it looks like he will be here for a considerable time.
“He is maybe one of the obvious ones.
“There are other players who could wear the armband too.
“The three games before the split are very important and we need people to step up now.”
Former Dons goalkeeper Clark felt Brown had made a positive contribution to the club since making the move to Pittodrie after 14 trophy-laden years at Celtic.
He made 33 appearances with his only goal coming in a 2-2 draw against Rangers in October.
Clark says Brown’s presence will be missed on and off the park.
He said: “Scott was doing a good job.
“More recently, he picked up a hamstring injury and he didn’t look 100% since returning but he was getting there.
“He was a leader on the park and I heard good things about his influence around the team.
“That will be missed but others have to step up now.
“Obviously Scott’s circumstances changed.
“He came to Aberdeen to take his first steps into coaching with Stephen Glass.
“That suddenly changed when Stephen left and Jim Goodwin arrived.
“A new manager has to do it his way and I think everyone understands that.
“I don’t know Scott Brown very well but I imagine he understands that too.
“I don’t think he will be short of options for what to do next.”
The timing of Brown’s departure was unexpected with only eight games remaining of the season and more than a year left on his contract.
But Clark felt a parting of ways was the right move for both parties if Brown wasn’t going to figure prominently in Goodwin’s plans.
He said: “Jim has to set out his stall the way he wants it.
“If it was decided that Scott wasn’t going to be here next season then it is better happening now when you have the remainder of the season to start bedding in players.”
Clark, meanwhile, feels optimistic the Dons can end the season on a positive note after a disappointing campaign to date.
The Reds are languishing in 10th spot with three games to go before the split, starting with the visit of Hibernian on March 19.
Clark, who made 591 appearances for the Dons, believes Goodwin would have been able to take positives from Saturday’s performance against Rangers which ended in a 1-0 defeat following Kemar Roofe’s late strike.
He added: “I thought they played exceptionally well in the first half on Saturday.
“They were very good in the first half.
“They have played really well against the Old Firm this season.
“It was a shame they didn’t hold on but they created chances, especially in the first half, so there were positives to take from the game.”