Alan Pardew's side have gone from finishing in the top five last season to struggling to stay afloat in this campaign and travel to West Ham on Saturday still very much part of the relegation dog-fight.
With an expensively assembled squad, Newcastle were tipped to follow up last season's success with another solid showing this year but it has not materialised.
Nolan was part of the Magpies side that gained promotion back to the Premier League in 2010 before moving to Upton Park and feels the players who have moved to St James' Park in recent times need to show they can perform just as well when questions are being asked as they do when they are earning the plaudits.
"It's surprised me about what's going on," said Nolan. "But it's about them standing up, being counted because they've had the praise over the past year or so and now it's about stepping up to the mark and making sure that they keep the club up.
"It's amazing but that's Premier League football but they've had to juggle Europe, the only time I've had the chance to see them was in Europe and each time they seem to have been shot down in a blaze. They lost the derby and then last week lost 6-0 [to Liverpool]."
Former West Ham boss Pardew has had to quash rumours this week of a rift in the dressing room at Newcastle, with reports suggesting the club's many French players were not bonding with the rest of the squad.
Nolan reckons if such issues do exist they need to be ironed out to make the fight for survival an easier one.
When asked if there was a danger of cliques forming in a squad, Nolan replied: "I've been in relegation battles for a lot of my career and that's always the massive worry because people start going, 'it's his fault, not mine. I've done all right'.
"You don't want that. You want to be able to look the other lads in the eye and be able to say that no matter what happens, this is us, this is what we're about and we're going to give it a good go.
"They have got to make sure that when the little cliques come then they have to stick together as a team, as a whole, as a group."
Nolan battled against the drop during his time at Bolton, who boasted a very cosmopolitan dressing room under Sam Allardyce.
The 30-year-old midfielder does not believe a mixture of differing nationalities leads to unrest and praised Allardyce for his ability to keep a squad unified.
"It is not to do with what nationality you are or where you are from," he added.
"You've got to have a core group. The core group have got to be strong - with ethics. That's one thing Sam does.
"He's very good in that respect. He has his core group and when he brings people in if they don't buy into it then they're not here for long."
Nolan admitted he would like to be welcoming Newcastle to Upton Park under different circumstances but that his only thought will be on picking up three points for the Hammers.
"It is my old club coming to my new club so I am looking forward to it," he said.
"I wish the circumstances for them could be a bit better but that is not my concern any more. My concern is this club. I love being here. I enjoy it and I am looking forward, hopefully, to West Ham winning on Saturday."