Midfielder Syamer Kutty Abba says Penang will have to build from scratch after they were relegated following a 2-0 loss to T-Team in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) on Wednesday night.
The Panthers' fate in the second tier for 2018 had been some time coming, with 14 defeats and only three victories this MSL season.
Their abysmal record was made even worse when considering that they didn't play in the ongoing Malaysia Cup, leaving them fresher than the other 11 MSL teams.
"For me, it's all about going back to the grassroots. We have to rebuild our structure and try to rediscover what had worked well for the team in the past," Syamer told ESPN FC.
"We won't make any excuses for defeat to T-Team. We didn't take our chances and failed to capitalise on our home ground advantage, and they punished us for it."
Penang's woes stretched back to preseason when they were scrambling to recruit players at the last minute.
The arrival of Englishman Ashley Westwood from Bengaluru FC backfired, and despite a disciplinarian approach, he failed to win a match in the MSL.
But even though he overhauled Penang's import players in June's second transfer window, Zainal wasn't able to significantly improve the team's fortunes.
Syamer still thinks the former Selangor and Pahang coach is the right man for the job.
"Coach Zainal is experienced and I feel he still needs time with the team. With the right support, I am confident we can make a swift return to the MSL," Syamer said.
The hard man, who had a good Southeast (SEA) Asian Games campaign as he helped Malaysia claim the men's football silver medal, could be among the stars destined for the exit door after the end of this season.
"My contract ends after this season, and I am not sure about next year just yet. I will have to sit down with the management and have a chat with them before deciding," the home-grown 19-year-old said.
"Personally for me it's also a rebuilding process. My game needs to be more matured, and I have to be more technically adept as well. I will take this season as a big lesson in my career."
Penang complete their league fixtures with an away trip to Perak on Sept. 30 before hosting Selangor in their final home game on Oct. 21.
Last year, the Panthers survived the drop on the final day of the season after a 1-0 win over Sarawak.
The Crocs are on track to join them in the Malaysia Premier League, occupying 11th spot in the 12-team league.
Sarawak need to win their next two home games against Kedah and T-Team, while hoping 10th-placed Kelantan slip up.
Kelantan will play PKNS FC at home before they travel to Melaka United for the final league fixture.