The Singapore Under-21s returned home black and blue after losing all five of their matches at last month's Hassanal Bolkiah Tournament in Brunei.
The scale of the defeats - 4-0 to Vietnam, 3-1 to Cambodia, 3-1 to Brunei, 3-0 to Malaysia and 6-0 to Indonesia - has earned the ire of Patrick Ang.
The former chairman of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) National Teams' Committee (NTC) believes those defeats suggest a system that is broken.
"We need a thorough review of what we are doing, not be afraid of admitting that we've gone wrong, and make the changes that need to be made," the former Geylang International chairman said.
He called for better planning and a re-evaluation of the S.League as well as youth development programmes.
"Something is not right somewhere," he said, also, pointing to the poor results suffered by other developmental teams like the LionsXII and the Courts Young Lions.
"When the S.League started, top players from Thailand and Malaysia wanted to come here and play, now our players want to get out and go into their leagues.
"And our (U-21) team get soundly beaten by sides we used to dominate, like Cambodia and Brunei - I think we have to go back to basics." Ang, 64, who had also managed the national team previously, felt strongly that all S.League clubs should run their own youth development programmes to increase the talent pool (the current system sees only three clubs involved), and reinstating the now-defunct NTC to help find balance in local football.
"We have an inverse pyramid in terms of football talent now. The FAS has talent in big numbers (Courts Young Lions, LionsXII and National Football Academy players), while the clubs at the bottom have little. That's wrong," he said.
"That means that the S.League becomes a bad product, and Singaporeans are not stupid, they can see that.
"A small pool of players leads to a poor league, and a poor league means a poor national team."
Before its dissolution in 2005, the NTC, an independent committee, was involved in planning the calendar for the various national teams, and a league calendar would be constructed around it.
Between the LionsXII doing battle in Malaysia's club competitions and the Courts Young Lions (effectively the national U-23 team), the S.League has lost 60 of the country's best players, and Ang believes a review is in order.
"Admittedly, it is difficult to plan if we are not consistent in our policies, so we need to do some soul searching, decide what we want to do with the S.League, and if we so decide - put more effort into reviving it," he said.
"Let's go back to the drawing board, invite views - the FAS must trust clubs, and clubs must trust the FAS. Let's give football a chance."
This article was first published on Sep 12, 2014.
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